Piecing Parts of a Puzzle Together: Researching Ana Rupene and Child

The role of a researcher is to listen, observe and be flexible at all times. The purpose of research is to seek, unfold and piece together parts of a story missing from your version or account.


Fig. 1 Gottfried Lindauer, Ana Rupene and child, 1878, oil on canvas, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr H E Partridge, 1915

Every new piece of information may reveal a connection to another part of the research puzzle. Research is an activity that requires 'seeking' and a will to find! The focus of this essay is on Ana Rupene of Ngāti Maru.

The portrait of Ana Rupene and child (Fig. 1) has an intriguing back-story. Over time, the 1878 painting has accrued importance in the Auckland Art Gallery's family of Lindauer portraits for which we have guardianship. The number of Ana Rupene and child portraits in existence is a mystery, although it has been estimated Lindauer created up to 30 versions.1

Fig. 2 St Louis World's Fair showing the Palaces in which were housed the various countries' pavilions.

The Gallery's version of Ana Rupene and child won a gold medal when displayed at the Saint Louis World's Fair of 1904 (Fig. 2) with the medal being conferred on Lindauer arts patron Henry Partridge,2 rather than the artist.

Partridge ran a gold mining business in Thames where he operated a 'crushing plant' to extract gold from the land. By 1873, he had made enough money to move his wife and children to Auckland to open a shop and start his business, H.E. Partridge & Co., selling tobacco with a secondary trade in sporting goods.3

The source image for the many versions of Ana Rupene and child is a Foy Brothers photograph made in their Thames studio sometime between 1871 and 1878.4 Studio portraits of Māori were often produced as 'family collections' of people from a region such as those ancestors from Pare Hauraki or the Thames region. The Foy Bros photographic portraits of Ana Rupene, Pare Watene, Hori Ngakapa and Tamati Waka Te Puhi (Figs 3,4,5,6) from Foy form the basis for the portraits painted by Lindauer in 1878.  Other Hauraki tipuna including Mere Kuru Te Kati, Taraia Ngakuti Te Taumuhia, Tukukino and Horeta Te Taniwha (Figs 7,8,9,10) were painted by Lindauer, but were not photographed by the Foy Bros.

Fig. 3 Ana Rupene and Child, carte de visite, Foy Bros., private collection

The Foy Bros photographs were reproduced as cartes de visite5 or cabinet card6 'products' which started the worldwide distribution of Ana Rupene's image.7 Ironically, descendants of the Foy Bros have very few photographs or knowledge of the studio practice of their ancestors James Joseph Foy and Joseph Michael Foy. They have some photographs of tipuna Māori, but no portraits of their great grandparents.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the painting Ana Rupene and child was already a popular portrait in the public domain and the private sector. Into the first decade of the twenty-first century, the painting has a renewed life as a 'destination painting' for Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Yet descendants of Ana Rupene of Ngāti Maru only came to know of their tipuna kuia's painted portrait as recent as the 1960s and again into the 1980s8 through reproduction postcards celebrating the artistic practice of Lindauer.


An unobservable conundrum

Conundrums are not always observable; but for the pathways provided by descendants that help reconstruct pieces of a puzzle to an otherwise barely visible account.  Ana Rupene's whānau were not aware of or informed of the number of painted portraits made of their kuia by Lindauer. The point here is not to make judgements about right or wrong practices of colonial painters and photographers, rather to acknowledge the priorities and realities of another time.  Memories from descendants provide contextual and intimate kōrero to the legend of Ana Rupene and child . Each telling recounts remembered histories and profoundly personal accounts of 'access' to the image of Ana.

Pare Hauraki elder and iwi mangai Toko Renata Te Taniwha II gives this account of Ana from his branch of the Renata whānau. Ana is remembered by the whānau as 'Werohia' meaning to challenge. It is said she would wave a stick to instruct children on the virtues of good manners as they helped themselves by 'poking, shaking and prodding' her famed oranges from an orange tree located on the boundary of the whānau homestead. The name Werohia has survived down the generations.

To the Toko Renata whānau, Ana is 'Ana Reupene Whetuki' married to Reupene Whetuki, a Ngāti Maru rangatira.9 The first time Toko recalls seeing the image of his kuia was in a local hardware store in downtown Thames in the 1960s. Ana's image was used as a 'branding' tool to sell 'straw-brooms'. Her portrait was attached to the brooms.

Toko's story is a poignant telling. The local storeowner had a framed reproduction of the Gallery's Ana Rupene and child painting and Toko and his wife Bonney approached the owner explaining they were descendants and asking to purchase the print. An amount was agreed on and the Renata whānau paid for the reproduction in instalments until their financial obligation was met. This was the first time that Toko's branch of the family had access to Ana Rupene's image since the portrait was painted in 1878. Toko's elderly father was joyfully stunned to see his 'mum' returned to the whānau and the homecoming of the image to the whānau started a process of re-remembering a beloved kuia.

Toko also advised on the speculative stories made about the child depicted on Ana's back in Lindauer's portrait. The child's name is yet to be remembered and it is estimated that he lived to be about 14-18 years. It is said he had a supernumerary congenital condition meaning he had an extra toe on each foot. The family recount that this child had a gift for reciting whakapapa.


Additional context and content

Ana's life dates remain unknown at this time. What is known however is that she lived and died at Parakau, Manaia and is buried in an unmarked grave in the church yard adjacent to the south west corner of the church. History would suggest that Ana lived through distinct and rapid changes to her Māori life ways. However, they cannot describe the realities of life for her and her iwi, hapu and whānau.

The Pare Hauraki experience of government and individuals prospecting for gold in Thames - despite protests by leading rangatira of the day - is well-documented. The draining of the fertile Hauraki plains for farming ruined large tracts of land that were the sustainable food-basket of local iwi. The logging of kauri during the 1860s -1880s contributed to the literal, cultural and spiritual stresses endured by Pare Hauraki people wanting to retain their Māori life ways and human dignity in the face of rapid change. Mortality rates for children and men were extremely high. The 1800s - 1900s confiscation and sale of Māori land for Pākehā settlement is now being addressed by the Waitangi Tribunal in the twenty-first century.

'Ana' was named Ana Rupene in Lindauer's portrait but is known by other names. A commonly known name for Ana is 'Heeni Hirini'. The Foy Bros sometimes inscribed the names of sitters on the back of cartes de visite and cabinet cards. One such cabinet card provides new information for researchers because the name Heeni is inscribed on the back (Fig.11). Accordingly, to another branch of the Renata whānau Heeni Hirini is a family name and the one Heeni used when dealing with land agents and land surveyors.


Fig. 11 Ana Rupene and Child, carte de visite (verso), Foy Bros., private collection


Rodney Renata's whānau claim Heeni Hirini as the daughter of a Pare Hauraki tipuna named 'Hirini' who had land interests in the Otoka block in Hauraki.  This is substantiated by the family through an historic record whereby Heeni Hirini gave evidence in a land court proceeding and states her name as Heeni citing her father Hirini as her whakapapa connection to the block at Manaia.  This branch of the whānau believe that the name 'Ana' was bestowed on their kuia and 'Rupene' is a misspelt version of Reupene.10

'Heeni' and her husband Reupene Whetuki of Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Waihinu raised a daughter named Poia Reupene Whetuki. Poia married Wiremu Renata -also known as Wiremu Renata Kitahi Te Taniwha- of Ngati Whānaunga and Ngāti Maru. It is not known how Poia died, only that she was young when she passed away. Heeni and her husband took over the raising of Poia's children named Reupene, Te Kura, Toko11, and Mihinui, at the homestead of Wiremu Renata at Parakau at Manaia.  Not surprisingly, Poia's children referred to and considered Heeni to be their mother.

In the Māori world, children and mokopuna are taonga and everyone has shared responsibility for their wellbeing and future. Ana/Heeni and her husband provided a fulsome family life for their mokopuna.  Today, the Rodney Renata branch of the family recognises that Heeni had a succession plan for her mokopuna ensuring their lines of descent would become known and mokopuna would receive their rightful land inheritances from their Ngāti Maru whakapapa. Today, this depth of vitality and strength is a comforting and enduring legacy for her descendants.  Consequently, this connection with Heeni has created a deep affection for a beloved kuia, despite there not being a lot of detailed information to develop a better understanding of Heeni Hirini, Ana Rupene or Ana Reupene Whetuki. To that end, the Rodney Renata whānau advise they want to be clear that they proudly claim the name Heeni Hirini.

Piecing together the puzzle of Lindauer's portrait of Ana Rupene and child is an ongoing project and learning new things is its own reward.  In as much as Lindauer's portrait of Ana Rupene and child harks back to another time and place, we retain such images of ancestors in our hearts and minds as treasures for the days to come. In this way the Toko Renata, Rodney Renata and Foy whānau share a not too dissimilar situation, even if it is from a different experience and perspective or motivated by reasons that have changed over the years. It is almost impossible to avoid contexts within contexts as there is always something else to rediscover and recover in order to put things back together again.

The Whakamīharo Lindauer Online kaupapa is an opportunity for the voices of all descendants to come forward through the sharing of research and the generous exchange of whānau stories.  This type of research is an opportunity to support and enable their stories.  The cherished memories of uri whakaheke have been generously extended to this research kaupapa. The stories are fully dimensioned accounts in the lives of descendants and in time, these stories will contribute to a better understanding of beloved Māori ancestors, for the benefit of future descendants.



Ngahiraka Mason, Indigenous Curator, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

  1. Briar E. R. Gordon and Peter Stupples, Gottfried Lindauer: his Life and Maori Art, (Auckland: Collins, 1985), p 24.
  2. Partridge arrived in New Zealand in 1867 prospecting for gold at Hokitika then made his way to Auckland in 1868. He married and started a family. He accompanied Government agent James Mackay on expeditions into the kainga of Pare Hauraki iwi.
  3. The shop was situated at 204 Queen Street.
  4. The Foy Bros. Joseph Michael Foy and James Joseph Foy operated their Thames photographic studio on Pollen Street in Thames from 1 October 1871 to 7 October 1907. Personal communication with Angela Morrison, 16 March 2010. Angela is the great grand daughter of James Joseph Foy.
  5. Cartes de visite were small photographs usually made of an albumen print, which was a thin paper photograph mounted on a thicker paper card. They were considered to be ‘visiting cards’ or in today’s terms, business cards. The size of a carte de visite is roughly 2½ × 4½ inches (64 x 114 mm).
  6. Cabinet cards superseded cartes de visites. They were also usually albumen prints, but larger, mounted on cardboard backs measuring 4½ by 6½ inches (114 x 165 mm).
  7. Cartes de visite and cabinet cards were affordable images to collect and send overseas. They were popular among tourists who would take them home as souvenirs of their visit to Aotearoa New Zealand.
  8. Personal communication with Toko Renata Te Taniwha, II December 2009.
  9. In 1873, Reupene Whetuki is one of numerous landowners in a Māori Deeds of Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand: Volume 1. Account documenting the sale of a block of land with the title Hikutaia. http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-Tur01Nort-t1-g1-g1-g1-g11-g8-t1.html
  10. Personal communication with Rodney Renata, February 2010.
  11. Toko Renata Te Taniwha I.
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