Rare showing of Kahungunu portraits
An exhibition of photographic portraits of Ngati Kahungunu is opening at the Hastings Community Art Centre on February 15.
Organised and curated by Ngati Kahungunu Iwi, the exhibition showcases portraits of ancestors from the 1800s through to 2015.
‘‘Kahungunu Taikura Kurupounamu’’ is timed to coincide with the Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival held in Hastings February 22 to 26 and will run for four weeks.
Hosted by Ngati Kahungunu Iwi, the biennial event is the largest kapa haka festival in the world, with 48 teams from Australia and New Zealand travelling to Hastings to compete in the final.
Curator Ngatai Huata said the portrait exhibition aligned with three significant Kahungunu events -Te Matatini, Waitangi Day and Matariki.
The exhibition centres on a significant collection of photographic portraits of Ngati Kahungunu taken by Samuel Carnell from 1870 to 1906.
Carnell was a Hawke’s Bay photographer who served briefly as a member of parliament and Mayor of Napier.
His purpose-built studio in Shakespeare Road in Napier was the largest of its kind in Australasia and was patronised by a number of prominent people from Ngati Kahungunu, including Henare Tomoana, Karaitiana Takamoana and Arihi Te Nahu.
Although many of his Maori portrait negatives were lost, around 250 dating from 1870 to 1906 were retained by the photographer and preserved by his descendants. These were presented to the Alexander Turnbull Library by his grandson in 1963.
The Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust developed the negatives as full-size photographs in 1999 and an exhibition was held in Hast- ings.
Huata described the portraits as ‘‘a Kahungunu treasure chest’’ and mark a period of the enormous cultural, social and political upheaval of Ngati Kahungunu society.
Despite this, Huata said the portraits were optimistic.
‘‘We do not see despair, defeat or surrender in these portraits. We see stern poses, steely determination, sinewy pride, and glitters of optimism.’’
In conjunction descendants will host secture series, with stories, waiata, moteatea and haka of ancestors.
Curator Ngatai Huata with a selection of photographic portraits.