Tuhinga 28, 2017

Articles cover the loan of a precious Hawaiian ‘ahu ‘ula and mahiole, Shakespeare in Te Papa’s art collections, John Baillie, E.H. Gibson and the collection of Jewish refugee artefacts.

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The ‘ahu ‘ula and mahiole of Kalani‘ōpu‘u: a journey of chiefly adornments
by Sean Mallon, Rangi Te Kanawa, Rachael Collinge, Nirmala Balram, Grace Hutton, Te Waari Carkeek, Arapata Hakiwai, Emalani Case, Kawikaka‘iulani Aipa and Kamalani Kapeliela

Fated feathers, unfurling futures
by Noelle M.K.Y. Kahanu

‘Look here upon this picture’: Shakespeare in art at Te Papa
by Mark Stocker

An uncertain future: Jewish refugee artefacts in New Zealand and their ‘return’ to Germany
by Louisa Hormann

The enterprising John Baillie, artist, art dealer and entrepreneur
by Tony Mackle

E.H. Gibson, taxidermist, and the assembly of Phar Lap’s skeleton
by Moira White

The ‘ahu ‘ula and mahiole of Kalani‘ōpu‘u: a journey of chiefly adornments

Sean Mallon, Rangi Te Kanawa, Rachael Collinge, Nirmala Balram, Grace Hutton, Te Waari Carkeek, Arapata Hakiwai, Emalani Case, Kawikaka‘iulani Aipa and Kamalani Kapeliela

Among the most significant Pacific cultural treasures in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) are the ‘ahu ‘ula‘ahu ‘ula feathered cloak and mahiolemahiole feathered helmet that once belonged to Kalani‘ōpu‘u, a high chief on the island of Hawai‘i in the late 1770s. He gifted these objects to English explorer James Cook in 1779, and they eventually found their way to New Zealand in 1912.

More than a century later, in 2014, representatives from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum (Bishop Museum) approached Te Papa about reconnecting the ‘ahu ‘ula and mahiole with the Hawaiian people. A long-term loan emerged as the best process to enable this historic reconnection to take place.

This article presents the history of display for the ‘ahu ‘ula and mahiole in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. It outlines how their preparation for loan in 2016 created circumstances for community engagement, cultural interaction and the enacting of indigenous museological practice.

Fated feathers, unfurling futures

Noelle M.K.Y. Kahanu

While scholars have documented the travels of the ‘ahu ‘ula‘ahu ‘ula feathered cloak and mahiolemahiole feathered helmet of Kalani‘ōpu‘u over the course of more than two centuries, what is of principal importance to many Native Hawaiians is simply this – they left by an act of Pacific generosity and they returned by an act of Pacific generosity.

This brief article seeks to explore the circumstances of the original gifting of these chiefly riches by ali‘i nuiali‘i nui high chief Kalani‘ōpu‘u to Captain James Cook in 1779, as well as the implications of their most recent return by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Both acts were of lasting cultural and political import, and were magnificent gestures of faith, of trust and, one might argue, of commitments intended to bind future generations.

Might these acts be viewed not independently, but as an intergenerational continuum of relations? And how might Kalani‘ōpu‘u’s own agency be understood in both a historical and a contemporary context?

‘Look here upon this picture’: Shakespeare in art at Te Papa

Mark Stocker

This article examines the art holdings at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) that relate to William Shakespeare and his writings, beginning with an engraving by Jan Harmensz. Muller of Cleopatra (c. 1592), which is treated as broadly ‘Shakespearean’ in its iconography. Later works include paintings by the neoclassicist George Dawe and prolific literary illustrator John Masey Wright, early modernist prints by Eric Ravilious and George Buday, as well as more recent counterparts by Tony Fomison and Sidney Nolan.

Most detailed analysis is given to Raymond Boyce’s full-sized cartoons (1989) for the embroidered wall-hangings in Shakespeare’s Globe, London. It is argued that they are Te Papa’s most significant Shakespearean artworks and have a uniquely New Zealand component.

An uncertain future: Jewish refugee artefacts in New Zealand and their ‘return’ to Germany

Louisa Hormann

The absence of artefacts in many Jewish museums today is due to the widescale destruction, plundering and displacement of people and their possessions during the 1941–45 Holocaust. While some European institutions actually hoarded large Judaica collections in this period, countless Jewish objects went into exile with refugee families. The main methods used by European Jewish museums to offset this deficiency (through narrative display, and by seeking object donations from these refugee families) raise critical museological questions regarding the representation and ‘repatriation’ of these exilic objects.

Not only are donated Jewish refugee objects (as opposed to artefacts appropriated illegally) largely absent from European museum collections; they also rarely inhabit cultural heritage collections in New Zealand. The material culture objects brought to New Zealand in the 1930s by Jewish refugees are today mainly held in the private homes of descendants. However, the significant lack of a dedicated, permanent collection space capable of accepting these privately held refugee materials constrains the options of the second generation regarding the future preservation of their heritage. 

This paper explores the current position of New Zealand’s national heritage collecting institutions regarding the acquisition of Jewish refugee objects, their use of such artefacts, and the perspectives of refugee families and their descendants as potential donors.

The enterprising John Baillie, artist, art dealer and entrepreneur

Tony Mackle

John Baillie was a key figure in the establishment of New Zealand’s national art collection in the first decades of the twentieth century. He was a unique combination of gifted artist and astute businessman. As a young artist, he travelled from New Zealand to London, where he created a respected dealer gallery. On the basis of his work experience and knowledge of British painting, Baillie was commissioned to organise two substantial art exhibitions that toured New Zealand. From these, the Wellington public purchased paintings and prints as a foundation for a national collection of art. 

This paper aims to provide an appreciation and acknowledgement of Baillie’s talents, in particular his commitment to the promotion of art in New Zealand.

E.H. Gibson, taxidermist, and the assembly of Phar Lap’s skeleton

Moira White

In October 1938, Edwin Herbert Gibson, taxidermist at the Otago Museum, travelled from Dunedin to Wellington to oversee the preparation of the skeleton of the famous racehorse Phar Lap for exhibition at the Dominion Museum. Gibson spent three weeks working in Wellington with the assistance of Charles Lindsay, the then-Dominion Museum taxidermist. Phar Lap’s skeleton went on display soon after.

It remained a popular exhibit for more than 70 years in that form, but was rearticulated in 2011 to correct errors of stance and anatomy, and to redress the impact of metal fatigue.

This paper looks at Gibson’s career, and how it prepared him for the invitation to participate in this significant enterprise.