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Te Rauparaha Wearing a Naval Uniform, Late 1840s

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Copyright Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Creator Unidentified
Identifiers Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa number 1992-0035-1710 TLF resource R4415
Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This is a watercolour of the Ngāti Toa (tribe) chief Te Rauparaha wearing a naval uniform. Te Rauparaha has a moko (facial tattoo) and is wearing a light-blue naval cap, a jacket with gold buttons and gold epaulets on the shoulders, white trousers and brown shoes. Holding a taiaha kura (long-handled fighting club), he is posing alongside a flowering flax bush, and there is a bay in the background. The painting is possibly the work of William Bambridge, who completed a pen-and-ink sketch of Te Rauparaha in a similar pose in 1847. It measures 34.2 cm x 25.0 cm.

Educational value:
  • This asset depicts the powerful Māori chief Te Rauparaha - he led the migration of the Ngāti Toa iwi (people) to the Kapiti Coast on the lower west coast of the North Island of New Zealand during the late 1820s and 1830s; from there he initiated a number of raids on the South Island, enabling Ngāti Toa to dominate its upper region as well as the lower North Island.
  • It suggests the importance of Te Rauparaha - he was a leader who built a small tribe into an immensely powerful force through his control of Kapiti Island and the access to Cook Strait (which divides the North and South Islands and was a key trading route).
  • It illustrates a key figure in New Zealand affairs during the 1830s and 1840s - because all people, both Māori and European, within his sphere of influence required his approval and support to trade and live peacefully, Te Rauparaha became a key figure in the whaling industry and the general trade that developed in his area; this in turn increased the wealth and power of his iwi, as well as his own power and mana (status).
  • It depicts a Māori leader who in 1830 persuaded a British trader named Stewart to carry a Ngāti Toa taua (war party) to the South Island for a surprise attack on Ngāi Tahu, a rival iwi - this incident provoked a strong response from missionaries and other humanitarians concerned with European interference in Māori affairs, and prompted calls for formal British intervention in New Zealand to prevent other such incidents taking place.
  • It depicts a Māori leader who was seen as an obstacle to European settlement in the region - this was noted especially in the aftermath of an incident over disputed land in the Wairau Valley at the north of the South Island in 1843, when Te Rauparaha and his nephew, Te Rangihaeata, were involved in the death of a New Zealand Company surveying party.
  • It depicts Te Rauparaha in a naval uniform - this refers to Te Rauparaha's arrest in 1846 by Governor George Grey during a war that had erupted in the Wellington region involving Te Rauparaha's nephew, Te Rangihaeata, in which Te Rauparaha himself had largely remained neutral; Grey believed that by capturing Te Rauparaha and removing him to Auckland, he would destroy Te Rauparaha's influence (which proved to be the case); it was while he was detained that Te Rauparaha was presented with the uniform he wears in this painting.
  • It illustrates a figure probably best known to many New Zealanders for the haka (dance accompanied with a chant of defiance) that he performed in the 1820s when he narrowly escaped capture by his enemies - this has since become the haka performed by many New Zealand sports teams, most notably the All Blacks rugby team.
  • It features Te Rauparaha's famous taiaha kura (long-handled fighting club), which was named Kimihia after his paternal grandfather and was used by Te Rauparaha in close-quarters combat to great effect.

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