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Te Papa exhibits painting of peaceful encounter from Cook’s second voyage

News: 1 November 2019

The oldest European painting of Aotearoa New Zealand in Te Papa’s collection will go in display in Toi Art, Te Papa’s art gallery, as part of Tamatea: He Tūtakinga Tuku Iho | Legacies of Encounter. The exhibition opens on Saturday 9 November.

The rare painting Waterfall in Dusky Bay with Maori canoe is by William Hodges, the first professional artist to depict the peoples and landscapes of this place. He was employed as an artist on Captain Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific aboard the Resolution from 1772-75. 

William Hodges, Waterfall in Dusky Bay with Maori canoe (link is external), 1776, oil on panel. Purchased 2019 with assistance from Lottery Grants Board, Tuia Encounters – 250 Fund. Te Papa (2019-0003-1)

In the autumn of 1773, southern Māori and Pākehā encountered each other for the first time when the Resolution anchored for five weeks at Tamatea (Dusky Sound). The encounter – which first-hand accounts suggest was amicable and involved mutual curiosity – inspired Hodges’ painting.

Tamatea: Legacies of Encounter presents Hodges’ painting in conversation with taonga and works by New Zealand artists Mark Adams and Colin McCahon. The exhibition is co-curated by Curator Historical New Zealand Art Dr Rebecca Rice and Megan Tamati-Quennell (Te Atiawa, Ngāi Tahu), Curator Modern & Contemporary Māori & Indigenous Art, with input from Ngāi Tahu ki Murihiku and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

The taonga acknowledge the significant human history of Tamatea stretching back hundreds of years, and the seasonal occupation by southern Māori. All were found in, or near, Tamatea, including a unique rākau atua, which represents a tangible connection to the Māori spiritual world.

Te Papa Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai says the exhibition enables artistic, scientific, and cultural reflections on the 1773 encounter to be explored through taonga. 

“Collectively, the taonga represent the people and cultures of Tamatea before the arrival of Europeans,” he says.

Dr Rice and Ms Tamati-Quennell feel it is important to contextualise Hodges’ painting in a number of ways, so that visitors might be encouraged to explore the legacies of that first encounter, both for southern Māori, and for art in New Zealand.

“For many artists following in his wake, such as Mark Adams, William Hodges is the ancestor of landscape painting in New Zealand,” they say.

Tamatea: Legacies of Encounter includes two works from modern New Zealand artist Colin McCahon’s Waterfall series. Inspired by Hodges’ paintings of Cascade Falls in Tamatea, McCahon made his first of over a hundred waterfall paintings in 1964.

Contemporary photographer Mark Adams has over 30 years’ engagement in the colonial and pre-colonial histories of Aotearoa. The exhibition features a recent acquisition by Adams; a four panel photograph titled Nine Fathoms Passage, that responds to William Hodges’ Waterfall in Dusky Bay with a Maori Canoe.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai says it is appropriate that Hodges’ painting has returned home to Aotearoa as it comprises one of the earliest artistic depictions by Pākehā of tīpuna from southern Te Waipounamu. 

“The encounter between Cook’s crew and the southern Māori families at Tamatea in 1773 was amicable. The portrayal of our tīpuna in this painting will be of interest to Ngāi Tahu whānui, and particularly to those with whakapapa to the deep south,” she says.

A soundscape has been designed for the exhibition by leading New Zealand musician Mara TK, incorporating field recordings made on location at Tamatea by filmmaker Braydon Moloney, and a waiata written and sung by Cheree Downes on Anchor Island. 

On the day of the exhibition opening, Ngāi Tahu kaumātua, historian, and Māori place names expert Tā Tipene O’Regan is giving a public talk about the history and foundational mythology that originates in southern Te Waipounamu.

The Kaihaukai Art Collective is hosting an evening of music and food at Te Papa on 3 March 2020. Made up of Ngāi Tahu artists Simon Kaan and Ron Bull jr, the Kaihaukai Art Collective has undertaken projects in New Zealand and internationally. Their projects relate to indigenous food, customary practice, and whakapapa (Māori geneaology).

The acquisition of Waterfall in Dusky Bay with Maori canoe has been partially funded by the Lottery Grants Board from the Tuia – Encounters 250 fund.

Updated on 31st March 2020