Māori sketches provide snapshot insights into NZ history

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

200-year-old Māori ink illustrations are being prepared for the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The 'Oceania' exhibition will mark 250 years since Captain Cook's first voyage to the South Pacific.

Principal Maori Curator Auckland Libraries, Haunui Royal says, “They are some of earliest examples of ink illustrations we have by Māori people. It's meant that the book has been published and the stories are being told and what it's telling about is the incredible resilience, and the courage of young Māori travellers at that time.”

Auckland Libraries' Preservation team is currently working on five ink illustrations that date back to 1818.

Auckland Libraries' Preservation Manager, David Ashman says, “Their unique and they're special it's been quite a privilege to have the opportunity to work with them and also learn more about the people that were involved with creating those drawings.”

Tūai of the Ngāre Raumati tribe drew these sketches while he and Tīriti of Rangihoua were in England with missionary Samuel Lee Marsden.

Haunui Royal says, “ They arrived in February 1818, and they were hosted by the Christian Missionary Society. Part of the reason that these young rangatira were taken was the desire by the Christian Missionary Society is that they would be evangelised and come back to Aotearoa and help spread the gospel to the Māori people.”

According to the Auckland Libraries Preservation team, these are some of the first recorded materials used to teach people overseas about Māori culture.

“He (Tūai) had a lot to do with the whole cross-cultural connection, with the French with De Thierry, Samuel Marsden, so one of the early conduits between Māori and Pākehā discourse,” says Haunui Royal.

In September the drawings will be taken to London by the Ngare Raumati tribe.