Marti Friedlander remembered for her works with Māori

By Semi Holland
  • Auckland

Te Papa Marae and Tikanga Coordinator Hema Temara has paid tribute to iconic New Zealand photographer Marti Friedlander who passed away in Auckland yesterday.

Friedlander photographed 29 black and white photographs of Māori kuia who were the last generation to receive the unbroken tradition of moko kauae in the 1920s.

“She was very passionate because she was a foreigner here. She loved studying people so her thoughts were to look at the people of the land, the people who belonged here and that was her passion. Anybody that she saw that had Māori features she was passionate about,” said Temara.

Temarae says Marti Friedlander’s passion derived from Harry Sangl, a Prague-born German artist who came to New Zealand in 1969. He was the author of the book ‘The Blue Privilege’ – the last tattooed Māori Women – Te Kuia Moko’.

Temara says, “she saw the book that was written by Harry so she studied that and then went out to try and find him and that turned her mind to capturing a lot of images of Tūhoe people because she found them very fascinating. She believed Tūhoe weren’t influenced by the outside world from her perspective.

Friedlander was born in London and was raised with her sister in a Jewish orphanage. She moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi husband Gerrard in 1958. Already a photographer, she picked up her camera and began taking pictures of her new country.

“She took thousands of photographs of mostly Tūhoe because of her background as a Jew. She likened our people to her people,” said Hemara.

A public post on her Facebook page on Monday said: “We are very sad to inform you that Marti passed away peacefully this morning.”

It’s been reported Marti Friedlander’s funeral will be held at 2:20pm on Wednesday, November 16, at Waikumete Cemetery’s Beit Olam prayer house.