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'Darby and Joan', Ina Te Papatahi, Ngā Puhi

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Copyright Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Creator Charles Frederick Goldie, artist, 1903
Identifiers Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Number 1991-0001-1 TLF resource R2045
Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This is an oil painting by New Zealand artist Charles Frederick Goldie (1870-1947). It measures 99.9 cm x 125 cm and was painted in 1903. It depicts Ina Te Papatahi, a female elder (kuia) from Ngā Puhi (a tribe from Hokianga in the northern North Island). She sits on the porch of a run-down meeting house (wharenui) next to a carved wooden ancestral figure, which is dusty and chipped. Eyes averted, she rests her chin on her hand and smokes a pipe. A blanket is slung across her shoulders.

Educational value:
  • This asset is one of Goldie's largest and most significant works and received overwhelming praise when it was first exhibited in Auckland - Goldie, who painted predominantly Māori subjects, captivated the public with his meticulous attention to detail and realistic depiction of clothes, artefacts and skin marking (moko).
  • It reflects the prevalent attitudes of Europeans to Māori at this time - the title 'Darby and Joan' comes from a sentimental 19th-century English poem about an old couple facing their final years and ultimate death together; here Ina Te Papatahi is Joan, the ancestral carving next to her is Darby, and together they face the death or assimilation of the Māori race, which many Europeans at the time believed inevitable.
  • It creates a false impression - Goldie's depiction of Māori as a dying race did not reflect reality, as the Māori population was increasing at the time and dynamic Māori political groups were forming.
  • It is a painting which has been regarded in different ways over time - Goldie has become controversial, as many people now see his work as reflecting colonial attitudes of racism.
  • It is valued by Māori because it is considered that the wairua (spirit) of Ina Te Papatahi resides in the painting.

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