Exhibition

He Waka Eke Noa

18 February 2017 – 18 February 2018

Colonial-era portraits represent a legacy that illuminates the present.

An exhibition built around colonial-era, mainly Māori, portraiture and works connected to the theme of colonisation. Portraits by Charles Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer join early photographs by Dr. A.C. Barker, from Alfred Burton’s celebrated 1885 Maori at Home series, and a small number of Ngāi Tahu portraits. Other works with local connections relate to John Robert Godley and the Canterbury settlement, including a portrait by author and short-term sheep farmer Samuel Butler. William Dunning’s Colonisation Triptych (1999) represents a re-examination of history, and together these works of art represent a legacy that continues to resonate.

Related

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Beneath the Ranges

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Commentary
Such Human Tide

Such Human Tide

The exhibition He Waka Eke Noa brings together colonial-era, mainly Māori, portraiture alongside objects linked to colonisation – it’s a predictably uncomfortable mix. While the degree of discomfort may depend on one’s background or degree of connection to an enduringly difficult past, objects related to emigration and colonisation can be a useful lenses. As relics from a specific period in global history, when the movement of (particularly) European people was happening at an unprecedented scale, they hold stories with a measure of complexity that obliges an open-minded reading. There is no denying that they speak of losses and gains, of injustices and rewards.

Collection
Colonization Triptych
William Dunning Colonization Triptych

William Dunning’s Colonization Triptych presents history as an uncomfortable place filled with cracks and stains. In a gallery of paintings within a painting, it places colonial Prime Minister Julius Vogel in the same room as Waikato Māori leader Rewi Maniapoto, each flanking an adapted version of Giovanni Bellini’s circa 1487 Transfiguration of Christ. Dunning’s reworking, however, replaces Jesus with early colonial governor William Hobson and Moses and Elijah with deed-bearing settler and Māori chief, substituting Bellini’s startled disciples with generic Māori figures. In dealing with displaced, changing authority and rulership, Colonization Triptych tells of the artist’s abiding awareness of the government-led injustices of the colonial past. The stiff awkwardness of the figures recall waxwork museum dioramas or early photographic studio portraits, and echoes the discomfort still easily enough associated with this past.

(He Waka Eke Noa, 18 February 2017 – 18 February 2018)

Collection
John Robert Godley
Mary Donald John Robert Godley

Mary Townsend arrived in Port Lyttelton aboard the Cressy on 27 December 1850 with her parents James and Alicia Townsend, five sisters, four brothers and a cousin. Mary had painted portraits professionally in London, but in Lyttelton – as Charlotte Godley noted – “did not expect to be asked for such things here”. Completing a portrait of four-year-old Arthur Godley in August 1851, she then started under Charlotte’s direction on this portrait of her husband John Robert Godley, founder of the Canterbury Province. Mary married Dr William Donald, the appointed ‘Colonial Surgeon at Lyttelton’, in November 1851. Ten months later the portrait was presented to the recently launched Lyttelton Colonists’ Society as a likeness of their chairperson. The presentation was followed by Godley’s “promised lecture on the early colonization of New Zealand”, as the Lyttelton Times reported, commenting also that “there are but few Colonists, we apprehend, who possess other than a very limited knowledge of their adopted country”.

(He Waka Eke Noa, 18 February 2017 – 18 February 2018)

Notes
Nosferatwho?

Nosferatwho?

For me, the best bits in vintage photographs are often the bits the photographer didn't really mean to capture.

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