WHAI MANA/ MANA RENEWED

Landing of the Missionaries at Taranaki 1844

An assertion of colonialist power, this picture highlights tall ships much more than waka. Like the other works in the series Views in the province of Auckland, to which this small lithograph belongs, Stack's main objective seems to be reassuring a British audience of his day that the colonisation of Aotearoa is well and truly underway. Given the events of his time, such as the Land Wars of the 1860s, the Pakeha public probably needed such assurance.

Imagine how different the picture's scene would be if it included waka alone. But public demand of the day quite probably required some British 'presence'. The highly detailed sailing ship is an imposing presence within the picture. The waka have been diminished by making them flatter, shorter and therefore less significant that the other vessels. In essence, Stack provides a very telling example of how imperialism as a political agenda sold itself pictorially to the viewing public.

In fact, waka served as indispensable transport, trading vessels before and after British arrival. In more recent times, the historical 'tables' have turned again, where the mana of waka is continually reasserted on Waitangi Day and during other official occasions. This renewed interest in waka speaks clearly of whai mana, mana renewed for Maori people and their culture. JD

Frederick Rice Stack 1858-1867

Canoe race on Auckland Harbour 1862
From Views in the Province of Auckland
Published by Day & Son, lithographers to the Queen, London
Hand coloured lithograph

The Fletcher Trust Collection

This is the only Maori subject in this attractive set of lithographs; indeed, it is hardly a Maori subject at all, yet its art historical importance derives from the dual facts that it is the first pictorial record of a highlight of the annual Auckland Regatta and that it includes waka. Stack's five other prints Anglicised Auckland to an extraordinary degree, making its rough headlands look as though they had been softened by Capability Brown.

Stack was a distinguished professional army officer who arrived in New Zealand as a Major of Brigade in July 1857. Differences between him and his commanding officer, Colonel Gold, resulted in Stack's arrest for insubordination, court martial and subsequent dismissal from the army he had served for twenty-two years. The sketches for the Views were almost certainly done in the few weeks after his dismissal when Stack was making arrangements for his return to England. In publishing the portfolio of prints, he hoped to make some money to support himself and his family while awaiting the outcome of his appeal. PS

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