Aside from the kākahu on display, Kahu Ora presents visitors with the opportunity to see three exemplars of New Zealand art close up. Two oil paintings by Charles Goldie and another from Gottfried Lindauer show kākahu in another medium and are juxtaposed by an impressive example of a korowai. Many photographs are used throughout Kahu Ora to illustrate the history and kōrero (story) surrounding kākahu but the inclusion of these three paintings, almost in a section of their own, is a welcome inclusion.
The first painting is titled ‘Pipi Puzzled’ and depicts the bust of a Ngāti Whakaue woman named Pipi Haerehuka.
The texture of the painting is incredible; you can almost feel the softness of her hair and the leather of her skin. My father’s mother was from Ngāti Whakaue but we grew up not knowing her side of the family so having the opportunity to stand in front of a tipuna is one of the most important intangible experiences Kahu Ora offers.
The second Goldie featured in Kahu Ora is Thoughts of a Tohunga depicting the Ngāti Manawa tohunga, Te Wharekauri Tahuna. Due to his profile sitting, you can see the detail in the portrait down to the vein on his forehead. The depth of his wrinkles and tā moko are also evident. Unfortunately we don’t have the clearance to publish this image online, but come in and see the painting in person to fully comprehend how beautiful it is.
In other paintings of his, including those of Ina Te Papatahi from Ngā Puhi he depicts his sitter in a despondent manner with the decay of Māori culture materialised around her. This was representative of the contemporary view, and one that Goldie appeared to perpetuate, that Māori were a dying people and culture. Though we can look back on his practices with the benefit of hindsight, we also reap the benefits of seeing tipuna portrayed in such a realistic manner.
The third painting on display is by Gottfried Lindauer of Mrs Mihiterina Takamoana.
Lindauer and Goldie together were the most prolific portrait painters of their times and in the book Pictures of Old New Zealand by Gottfried Lindauer the value of the portraits lay in what they have captured for their descendants, “…the dignified rangatiras and warrior chiefs, who have now all passed away to the Reinga, the spiritland.” Unlike some of Lindauer’s more well-known portraits like Ana Rupene and Child that are also depicted wearing korowai, there is little known about Mihiterina and I think her inclusion in the exhibition heightens the chance that through this exposure she may be reconnected with her descendants.
Remember the Weavers Studio will be in until Sunday.
Korowai developed from the more practical pākē however the tags on a korowai are primarily for decorative purposes instead of protection from rain. Korowai evolved further with the introduction of wool to New Zealand and in the aforementioned painting Ana Rupene and Child, you can view an example of the colourful pompoms that were in vogue. The korowai on display with the paintings uses no wool and the hukahuka (decorative tags) are dyed with paru or ferruginous mud which has an active ingredient of iron oxide.
This korowai has provided us with another step in the evolutionary journey of the kākahu and how Māori have continued to adapt the techniques and materials. However, the inclusion of this korowai without wool and the paintings of people wearing similar kinds of korowai remind us that this evolution does not happen without the innovations of the past.