Historic tūpuna portraits on show

8:25 pm on 1 April 2015

The public will get a chance to view historic tūpuna portraits - some of which have never before been seen outside whānau collections - at Te Papa this Easter.


Unknown photographer, Nopera te Ngiha, 1860-1880, carte-de-visite, albumen silver print. Photo: Te Papa

The exhibition Ngāti Toa Rangatira: He iti whetū opens on 2 April and features 40 art works from Ngāti Toa, the museum's current iwi-in-residence.

It is the first time Te Papa has collaborated with an iwi-in-residence to curate an exhibition for its art gallery.

The works have been sourced from various collections including other galleries and museums as well as private families.

A curator at Te Papa, Rebecca Rice, said the portraits reflected an era of great change and conflict in Aotearoa.

"These portraits have their origins in a period of immense social and cultural change.

"They were largely made by colonial surveyors and officials, seldom by professional artists. Consequently each portrait offers a view on various highly charged historical moments of encounter."

She said one pair of portraits vividly captured the speed and nature of change: Ngāti Toa's famous chief, Te Rauparaha, is depicted wearing a customary cloak while in several portraits alongside, his only surviving son, Tamihana Te Rauparaha, is dressed in dapper English dress suits.

Te Runanga o Toa Rangatira Chair Taku Parai said the art was an extension of the current Whiti Te Rā! exhibition on Ngāti Toa currently at Te Papa.

"We're privileged to be able to bring this collection of fine works together in one place to be shared with our iwi, but also visitors to the museum.

"What we see here is the extension of the story and history of Ngāti Toa. Our iwi members are a reflection of what is shown on these walls."

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