The Time of Kai

The Time of Kai would have to be one of Lindauer's more ambitious scene paintings. It illustrates pā life where family and kin groups gather for kai: everyone is depicted in activities focused around kai. The steam rises from an open hāngī, signalling the kai is cooked and ready to distribute. Individuals gather and small woven kono of the type illustrated in Lindauer's earlier painting Maoris Plaiting Flax Baskets are used to distribute the evening's kai to whānau groups. A wide range of food is depicted: corn cobs, cooked pipi and tuatua, taewa (potato) and ika (fish). There is even merengi (water melon) being sliced and shared between two young boys sitting in the top left, while a line of tuna (eel) are drying by the kāuta to the far right. Elsewhere washing is drying in the mahau of the meetinghouse at the centre back and kunekune pigs chase hens and kurī play in the courtyard in front.

Lindauer presents a busy scene painting that is slightly reminiscent of a sixteenth-century Bruegel genre painting with its arrangement of activities and characters and its muted colours. Interestingly, everybody in The Time of Kai is shown wearing European clothing exclusively, unlike the other genre paintings in which Lindauer uses customary Māori dress and attire to tell the narrative. The Time of Kai takes a different approach. It presents Māori society in a time of transition: its life and customs are very much in a time of change here. Next to the wharenui at top left is a bell hanging in a belfry which would be used to signal religious services, illustrating the influence of Christianity and missionary contact.

Lindauer's use of source photography is again evident in this work. However, it takes on a new element here. His son Hector is the source image of the young boy seated on a log eating a potato from a kono, as his wife Rebecca is for the kuia wearing a red scarf around her head and looking directly at the viewer. Both images have been cited in the Lindauer family archives and it is intriguing that the painter has slipped them into the painting unaware that they would one day be revealed through research. The Time of Kai is one of three large scene paintings Lindauer produced in 1907 for Henry Partridge.

Nigel Borell

(originally published in Gottfried Lindauer's New Zealand: The Māori Portraits, edited by Ngahiraka Mason and Zara Stanhope, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki and AUP, 2016.)

Tukua mai āu nā kōreroSubmit your story

Tāhuhu kōrero

Contributed stories

Do you have a story related to this portrait? Maybe you have images of this person? If you would like to see your story published on this website, please submit it here. All stories are reviewed before publishing.

Waiho mai he paku kōrero Leave a comment

Pito korero about Latest comments about The Time of Kai

We welcome your comments on the portraits.

* Mandatory fields

Waiho mai he paku kōrero Leave a comment

  • 900 characters
  • Tukua Submit
Tāia tēnei whārangi | Print this page
  • Tangata pūkenga | The Artist

    Learn about Gottfried Lindauer, one of the best-known painters of Māori portraits. Read about his painting techniques, why the works were painted, and the role of his patron Henry Partridge.

  • Documentary series | Behind the Brush

    The Māori Television series Behind the Brush brings alive the stories of descendants and to uncover the lives of the artist, the patron and tupuna Māori.

  • Pukapuka manuhiri | Visitors Book

    Turn the pages, view the hundreds of comments and signatures, read the transcription and translation, and search by name and place. A digitisation of an historical legacy.