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.

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