For Māori, the paintings of Gottfried Lindauer and his contemporaries Charles F. Goldie and Thomas (Darby) Ryan, are taonga tuku iho, treasures of an earlier time.
They resonate with the mana of those
ancestors; their strength, their resilience, and their nobility.
Each one is a poignant reminder of another time and place, and
another series of dynamic relationships; each one is the record of
a particular series of encounters, and memories.
What makes Lindauer different, and in many ways more intriguing,
is that many of the Māori people whom he painted were
actually commissioning him. Many of his portraits occurred through
the visionary patronage of Henry Edward Partridge, but not all of
them. Aristocratic Māori recognised his considerable gifts
and chose to move beyond the photographic process of the day, and
into a medium much more status-conscious, and much more enduring.
They approached him.
Māori families and hapū do possess
original Lindauer portraits; but for obvious reasons, they will not
be identified in this essay. Some are displayed in the whare whakairo context, safely installed and
constantly admired; one such house has four superb examples,
including a massive canvas of a well known iwi leader. Local elders
recall how this had sat in someone's shed for years, until
rediscovery; two other pieces on the same marae were put away for
decades, and found by a cleaning crew. Others continue to occupy
pride of place above the mantlepiece or in a welcoming position
before the descendant's front door. That they are originals is
Fig. 1 Tangi of
Hema te Ao at the Raukawa Meeting House, Otaki, 1932, Silver
gelatin print, ref. no. PA1-f-009-34-241, Timeframes
These images are also viewed as living beings; they are
comforting, they imbue power and confidence, they also oversee
ceremonial events. Many photographs of early twentieth century tangihanga feature significant
Lindauer and Goldie portraits close by the casket (Fig. 1). As the
deceased is addressed by an orator, often the korero turns to the portrait, reviving and
remembering the portrayed. Even today, many Māori admit to quiet
conversations with such images, seeking the advice of loved ones
long since gone. In modern times, commercial prints also line
the walls of Māori homes, and they too are elevated as important
attendants at tangihanga ritual. They are effective memento mori,
remembrances of the chiefly dead; and yet also recent enough to be
in the memories of many living today. As part of the whakapapa, the lines of
ancestry, they present a focus of identity and pride.
In the Māori world of the third millennium, this focus is most
refined in Lindauer's graphic representation of moko. The rangi pāruhi of men, and the moko kauae of women, are
precisely delineated, indicating the level of trust he achieved
with his sitters, and also the quality of the photographic material
he was working with (Figs 2, 3). Many descendants refer to these
images in the designing of their own facial moko; and once again
the ancestral emblems of ngutu pūrua,
darkened lips, and tīwhanawhana, swooping forehead
lines, colour the living skin. Lindauer is a reliable and exacting
source, and today moko wānanga, tā moko
practitioners, and commercial moko studios have his images on hand,
either as prints on the wall, or as reference books for ongoing
A further notable feature of Lindauer's opus is his meticulous
attention to dress; the elegant fall of kaitaka,
specific classes of cloak (Fig. 4); the diagonal construction of
piupiu or pihepihe;
the wondrous eccentricity of an aged veteran with not one
huia feather but an entire bird adorning his shoulder (Fig. 5).
Through this detailed record, we meet the personalities of the
sitters; their vanity, glamour and wealth, for example three hei tiki, four huia
feathers, a single giant mako tooth and three greenstone pendants
adorn one stately dowager wrapped in a creamy kaitaka edged in deep
polychrome tāniko (Fig. 6). A
few prefer European dress; they are expensively attired, confident,
formally besuited, fashionably gowned; or severe in military
uniform and dress brocade (Fig. 7). Some rarer examples reveal
young Māori women whose laughing open faces reflect both innocence
and sensuality (Fig. 8).
Fig. 8 Gottfried
Lindauer, Pare Watene, 1878, oil on canvas, Auckland Art Gallery
Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr H E Partridge, 1915
Fig. 9 Here Hunia
reproduced with the permission of the Metekingi whānau,
Their gaze is direct, and engaging; they are not romantic, archaic
and residual, wistfully recalling a fading world, or conquered
reality. The people of Lindauer's pictures are still fierce,
defiant, assertive, proud, and in control of their own lives; their
grasp of a future for their mokopuna is at least as firm and
uncompromising as their grip on their dazzling array of traditional
weapons. They are not haunted warriors dreaming of past battles,
and wise elderly women sadly pondering twilight; they are
undefeated, taking on the world around them on their terms. For me,
this is what makes these images so powerful; they predicted the
multifaceted, polyglot, adventurous, unstoppable Māori of today.
These images are thus admired and loved by all of us, not just
their actual descendants; although it is always an immense
privilege, and deeply moving moment, to be there when a mokopuna
sees the original portrait, and not a print from a book, for the
very first time. This encounter, however, is best described by
another writer. It is much more than tears and awe; it is
ownership, bloodlines, inspiration.
Actual physical ownership of such taonga is limited to only a few
Māori families and communities - most of Lindauer's works are in
private and public collections, here and overseas (Fig. 9).1
This raises the issue of relationships, and the responsibility, and
responsiveness, of institutions to Māori sensitivity, and the
expectations of the descendants.
Over 20 years ago, conversations took place, engaging the
tireless work of the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu,
as well as Mina McKenzie of Manawatu, Maui Pomare of Hongoeka, and
Tā Kiingi Ihaka of Taitokerau. They were all involved in
strategic discussions with the key policy and action people of
public institutions, particularly concerning portraiture, their
display, management, and access protocols. When the hugely
successful Te Māori exhibition was mounted in Auckland in
1987, the Partridge Collection generated an outpouring of emotion
as intense and extraordinary as the show in the main galleries;
people met and cried with their tūpuna (Fig. 10). Museum and gallery staff on
site had to review their practice, reassess their own biases, and
listen to the descendants' voices; and most, if not all, of them
For the mokopuna of a celebrated nineteenth-century chief, or a
formidable matriarch, their relationship is organic, motivational,
affectionate, and often visible; the framed face often becoming a
mirror image of the living grandchild four or five generations down
the line. As proven taura tangata, does this validate
or reinforce a claim of ownership, of belonging? In Māori terms, a
clear relationship is declared. How many institutions understand
this, or attempt to? And on whose terms?
Access should be a right, not a privilege. Institutions
experience the authentic opportunity of being offered a mass of
information both interpretive and historical by the Māori involved;
the trade-off is access, and ideally the capacity to borrow, on
conditions mutually negotiated. Public stewards of these taonga are
ideally aware of their responsibility to the mokopuna of the
sitters; who are ideally aware of the boundaries and heaviness of
this stewardship, and most accept them, before access is
appropriately, and sensitively, arranged. The conversations
continue. It is those who remain captured in private collections,
shut off from Māori and mokopuna, that may cause concern and grief;
but that is another story, for another time. Now, we celebrate this
opportunity to share, to view, to question, to marvel; and to
consider, as well, the phrase:
Mā wai hei kawe taku kauae ki tawhiti?
Who will carry my face to a faraway place? Who will remember me?
And in what way?
Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Professor, Centre for Māori and Pacific
Development Research, University of Waikato Te Whare Wananga o
Cultural Conservation Advisory Council, Taonga Maori
Conference New Zealand (Wellington: Department of Internal
Elizabeth Edwards ed., Anthropology & Photography.
(New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1992).
J.C. Graham ed., Maori Paintings by Gottfried Lindauer :
Pictures from the Partridge Collection of Paintings
Auckland Art Gallery (Honolulu: East West Center Press,
Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Linda W. Nikora, Mohi Rua and R. Rolinda
Karapu, Mau Moko The World of Maori Tattoo (Auckland,
Penguin Viking, 2007).
Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, 'Ta Moko : Maori Tattoo', in R. Blackley,
Goldie (Auckland: Auckland Art Gallery & David