Image 'Fishing for upokororo', 1922

TLF ID R4204

This is a black-and-white photograph of two Mäori men at work with two hïnaki (fish traps) capturing upokororo (grayling, 'Prototroctes oxyrhynchus') on the Waipu River on the east coast of the North Island in 1922. The photograph shows a low dam that has been built across the stream to divert its flow and direct the fish into the hïnaki. The front trap is tied to a wooden frame while the back trap is weighed down with a small boulder. The photograph is one of four taken by James McDonald and the negative measures 8.0 cm x 8.0 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset reveals traditional Mäori fishing techniques - hïnaki were used to catch a range of fish, including tuna (eels), ïnanga (whitebait) or, as in this example, upokororo.
  • It shows a hïnaki in use - most hïnaki were made from the slim stems of the mangemange ('Lygodium articulatum'), a climbing plant, with the main frame constructed of supplejack ('Ripogonum scandens') split longitudinally.
  • It discloses an object used in conjunction with a low dam built across a stream to raise its level or divert its flow and direct the fish into the hïnaki - a highly efficient fishing method.
  • It shows a fish trap for upokororo - this fish was a valuable food source for Mäori before it became extinct not long after 1922 when this photograph was taken; the species fell victim to introduced trout, excessive fishing and the clearing of the riverside vegetation that produced the algae they fed on.
  • It highlights the work of James McDonald (1865-1935) - McDonald had a particular interest in Mäori arts and crafts and, in the decade before the First World War, worked for the Dominion Museum (the forerunner of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) as a photographer and art assistant; he maintained the photographic collection and produced paintings, drawings and photographs.
  • It represents James McDonald's ground-breaking work gathering ethnological data - this work included the use of film, still photography and cylinder recordings of Mäori songs and speeches; his 1918 film of poi dances and string games is the earliest known ethnographic film to have been made in New Zealand.
  • It illustrates the work of the multitalented James McDonald - his other work included designing the New Zealand coat of arms, modelling the decorative patterns for the Native Committee Room in Parliament Buildings, devising displays for the New Zealand pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924, and being assistant censor of cinematograph films for eight years from August 1918.
  • It is evidence of the commitment of James McDonald to the preservation of Mäori arts and crafts - in 1926, he was appointed to the Board of Mäori Arts and moved to Tokaanu (central North Island) where he helped found Te Tuwharetoa School of Maori Art and Crafts (dedicated to reviving and nurturing traditional arts).

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: James McDonald
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Description: Content provider
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: James McDonald
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements