Quite uncharacteristically, Barraud focuses more on people than landscape in this picture. His attention to clothing details, particularly of the highly tasselled korowai worn by Te Rangihaeata, is matched to some extent by the women's clothing and the taiaha that the rangatira holds. Attention paid to facial features is much more simplified and angular, with the notable exception of Te Rangihaeata's facial moko. While the green coloured tiki stands out with its red 'eyes', its over-simplified shape sits awkwardly against the highly detailed korowai. The interconnection between people and land is suggested in both Te Rangihaeata's dress (including moko) and his commanding stance, as well as the unusual way he holds the taiaha with its head touching the ground. In fact, the scale of his figure seems larger than life and taller than buildings. His personal mana, grounded firmly in the whenua (land), is highly accentuated by such use of scale, attention to dress and the positioning of the taiaha.
A 'grounding' within whenua is further suggested by the women's seated position, something that can be read in Maori religious belief as part of women's close connection to the earth mother, Papatuanuku. While this picture ostensibly speaks about the mana of a rangatira who 'lords' over women and children, its potential narrative reaches further into the way in which we are all inextricably linked with the land, regardless of gender and social status. The connection between mana-a-iwi and mana whenua is therefore palpable and indispensable for viewers cognisant of Maori culture, a point that endures regardless of the artist's original intentions. JD
Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare O Rehua Whanganui
Barraud, who had arrived at Wellington in 1849 and set up business as a chemist, came from an artistic family. By 1850 he was already known as a painter. Barraud made a number of paintings of Te Rangihaeata, some of them after the subject's death in 1855 and one, at least, clearly based on the adjacent Captain R.A. Oliver portrait.
It is likely that Barraud would have made this watercolour of Te Rangihaeata at one of the pa in the Porirua area or at Otaki, where the chief visited in the years after he had ceased active opposition to European expansion. In late 1846, he had settled in an easily defended position in Porou-ta-whao swamp, near the coast south of the Manawatu River. Here his people suffered for lack of food, and in 1847 he raided Kapiti Island. He is said to have told Sir George Grey that "the spirit of the times was for peace, and now men, like women, used their tongues for weapons." PS