As a young girl my Grandfather used to tell us the story of our great, great, great Grandfather Kamariera Te Hau Takiri Wharepapa, the Maori Chief who went to England to meet Queen Victoria and married an English girl. A copy of the painting by Lindauer took pride of place on the wall of my grandparents living room, as children we used to argue over who would get the painting once my grandparents passed away, little did we know that copies would become easy to purchase in the years to come.
Kamariera Wharepapa was born in 1823 and was one of fourteen Maori who sailed to England on the Ida Ziegler in 1863 to meet Queen Victoria, the trip was organised by William Jenkins, a preacher and former interpreter for the Nelson provincial government (source: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1p21/1). In addition to meeting the Queen, the group of Maori also met the Prince and Princess of Wales and were used by Jenkins to demostrate songs and dances while wearing traditional garments and ornaments. While in England, Wharepapa met and married Elizabeth Ann Reid in St Anne’s Parish Church, Limehouse, London on March 31st, 1864. There are many paintings, illustrations and photographs of their experience in England including a copy of a letter that Wharepapa sent to family and friends in New Zealand.
The letter reads (Source: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/maori-overseas/1/3):
‘We are losing health & strength. In my opinion, if we stay long, we must find out some devices for ourselves for these days. That is all, the trouble of this expedition can not be enumerated. You are the sister of the Bishop who loves New Zealand so well & you will declare to him our sentiments. Your goodness to the Maories who have visited you gives us light and gladness in our hearts & makes us bold to speak out the burden that is laid on us thro’ this our ill considered visit to England.’
Wharepapa and Elizabeth returned to New Zealand in 1864, the first of five daughters was born on the return trip, Mary Faith Wharepapa and the remaining daughters were born in Mangakahia where Wharepapa and Elizabeth settled upon their return. The other daughters were: Edith Harriet, Hora Eliza Anne (my great, great grandmother), Maria Josephine Hope and Huhana. Elizabeth tired of the lifestyle and eventually left and married Charkes Samuel Lakey.
Charles Fredrick Goldie is known for his portraits of New Zealand Maori chiefs (ariki) and women of rank (kuia). He painted two portraits of the aging Wharepapa and took several photographs of Wharepapa in his studio. Many believed that the Maori were a doomed race at that time and the tradition of chiseled ta moko and facial tattooing had ceased (source: http://www.nzterritory.com/famous/goldie.html). Critics of his work dismissed his paintings as documentation rather than art and objected to the way he depicted the Maori, however, many Maori see Goldie’s works as taonga (treasured thing) representing irreplaceable ancestral images of koroua (elderly man) and kuia (elderly woman) which, for Maori have special significance (source: http://tpo.tepapa.govt.nz/ViewTopicExhibitDetail.asp?TopicFileID=0x000a3dd1).
My first (and only) Wharepapa family reunion was held in the early 80s at a marae in Titoki, my Grandmother not being one for such events, left us with our Grandfather to spend two days and a night with hundreds of relations that we had never met before. I remember lots of food, there was plenty of traditional singing, dancing and storytelling and we met all of my Grandfather’s brothers and sisters, he was one of eleven. At that time you had to rely on the written word, family photographs and museum or gallery collections to understand our family history and writing a family tree (for a teenager) was a tedious job. The internet has made life so much easier, my Mum is amazed at the range of images that I have been able to gather and share with her, she bought a copy of Lindauer’s painting when we were kids and now she has much more.