From a present-day perspective, the appropriation of customary Māori art forms and practice by Pākehā artists can be disconcerting, a more-than-awkward crossing of cultural lines.
Living in an isolated bay on Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū / Banks Peninsula, John Henry Menzies (1839–1919) was an English-born sheep farmer whose attraction to Māori art resulted in many spectacular pieces of carved furniture. Because his pieces were largely made as gifts for family members, most remain with descendants and are little known.
Inspired by the Māori architecture he saw during a visit to Ōhinemutu in Te Ika a Māui / the North Island, Menzies also studied whakairo (carving) and kōwhaiwhai (rafter patterns) from photographs and museum visits. Aware of his own limitations, he sought to encourage broader appreciation of these art forms through a folio of lithographs published in 1910.
Menzies provides a memorable example of the complexities of cross-cultural legacies of the colonial period.
I ēnei rā, kāore e tino arohaina ana te kōhakihaki tauira o te ao Māori hei whakanikoniko i te mahi a te ringatoi Pākehā. He tāhae whakapapa. He takahi mana. Engari rā, i te wā o John Henry Menzies (1839–1919), kāore i te pērā. He kaipāmu Pākehā a Menzies, i noho atu ki Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū. Nā tana kaikā ki ngā toi Māori, i hua mai ai āna ake taonga whakairo. Nā tana tākoha atu i aua taonga rā ki ōna uri, me tā rātou āta pupuri i aua taonga rā, kāore e mōhiotia whānuitia ana āna mahi whakairo e te ao.
Nā tana kite i ngā whare Māori i Ōhinemutu i aro atu a Menzies ki te ako i ngā mahi whakairo mahi kōwhaiwhai. Ka waiho mā ngā whakaahua rānei kei rō pukapuka, mā te haere rānei ki ngā whare pupuri taonga a Menzies e ako ai. Ahakoa ōna ngoikoretanga, i whakaputaina e a ia tētehi pukapuka i te tau 1910 hei whakanui i ēnei toi Māori ki te ao whānui. Pai tū, pai hinga, ko te wāhi ki a Menzies, he tauira nō te pīroiroitanga o te nohonga tahitanga o te Māori me te Pākehā i taua wā tonu.