Image Arawa soldier, 1865

TLF ID R2468

This is a watercolour painting created by British soldier Horatio Gordon Robley (1840-1930) in 1865. He called it 'Arawa soldier warning off'. It shows a Mäori warrior with a moko (skin marking) on his face and a moko puhoro (marking on leg or thigh) on his left thigh. He wears a form of traditional clothing made of either harekeke ('Phormium tenax', New Zealand flax) or bird feathers, and is performing a type of haka (ceremonial dance or challenge). He holds a mere (short, flat club) in his right hand. He is grimacing with his tongue extended, making himself appear more fierce (called whatero), a sign that this haka involves a challenge. Behind him are the palisade of Maketu Pa (near Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty area of New Zealand's North Island) and a gateway made from a canoe. The carved canoe stands vertically and has a large, painted head showing the moko of the tribe. The matt size (that is, the size of the mount) of the painting is 55.8 cm x 45.7 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset depicts a warrior of the Te Arawa iwi (tribal group) of the Bay of Plenty - this painting is one of many Arawa artworks produced by Robley during his 19 months in New Zealand in 1864-66 with the 68th Durham Light Infantry, who were fighting in the New Zealand Wars (conflict between local Mäori and the government over land issues).
  • It illustrates a type of haka, the traditional Mäori dance associated with war - in modern times the haka has become a symbol of national identity, perhaps best known for its performance before rugby matches.
  • It illustrates a traditional moko, a Mäori facial skin marking - the principal elements of a moko on a man's face are the pu-kauwae, spiral designs on the chin; the rerepehi, parallel curved lines from the chin to the side of the nose; the paepae, two large multiple spirals on the cheek; the rerepi and pongiangia, spirals on the nose; and the tiwhana, a series of lines curving from the inner end of the eyebrow and sweeping downwards above the ear.
  • It is an example of Robley's skills in watercolour and pencil drawings - he was widely known as the 'soldier with a pencil', and was told to record what he saw as a document for the public back home.

Other details

  • Content provider
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 1865
  • Name: Horatio Gordon Robley
  • Remarks: artist
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 29 Aug 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning resource type
  • Image
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer - minimum version: 8.0 (MS-Windows) - maximum version: 9.0 (MS-Windows)
  • Firefox - minimum version: (MS-Windows)
  • Safari - minimum version: 5.1 (MacOS)
Operating systems
  • MacOS - minimum version: 10.6
  • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements