Image War dance in 1851

TLF ID R2834

This is a watercolour painting created by the military artist Captain T J Grant in 1851. The image shows a Mäori woman holding a mere pounamu (greenstone hand weapon) and leading six male Mäori warriors in a war dance. The first male warrior holds a tewhatewha (a close combat weapon around 2 metres long); the second, fourth and fifth warriors hold upturned rifles; the third holds a taiaha (a long club around 2 metres in length); and the sixth holds a toki kakauroa (an axe head fixed to a long-handled shaft). All the male warriors have full facial moko (tattoo). The work measures 18.8 cm x 31.6 cm and is signed and dated in the lower right corner with pencil 'T J G/1851'. 'War dance' is written in pencil at the bottom centre.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset indicates that women led war dances - in this case a haka puremu (fierce ritualised dance to demand retribution for an act of adultery) is being performed; the haka (fierce ritualised dance) was in most instances led and performed by men.
  • It shows that women held positions of high rank - the female in this image is holding a mere pounamu, a symbol of power and influence that would not have been used by a person who did not command respect.
  • It indicates that Mäori warriors used a range of weapons - this image shows three types of weapons.
  • It reveals that Mäori used European weapons - three of the warriors are holding rifles, which are upturned to look like tewhatewha.
  • It is an example of the work of Captain T J Grant, a military artist who went to New Zealand to record Mäori warfare strategies and whose importance as a recorder of general aspects of Mäori society in the 19th century is now recognised.

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: 1851
  • Name: T J Grant
  • Remarks: artist
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: New Zealand Lottery Grants Board
  • Remarks: Purchased 1995 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 30 Aug 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
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Learning resource type
  • Image
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements