Image Elderly Mäori man, 1870s-80s

TLF ID R4717

This is black-and-white photograph of an unknown elderly Mäori man taken during the 1870s or 1880s. Shown from the waist up, he is wearing a feather cloak (kahu huruhuru) that has three distinct bands: the bottom layer is made up of white feathers, the middle band is of darker feathers and the band nearer the head consists of ruffled feathers. The man is holding a patu (club). His face is heavily tattooed, reflecting the art of tä moko and indicating that he is a man of mana (rank and status). He wears a pounamu (greenstone) ear pendant and has two feathers in his hair. The photo measures 9 cm x 6 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset presents an image of Mäori in the period after the New Zealand Wars - it reflects a somewhat forlorn view of Mäori at a time of population decline and land loss in the wake of rapid European colonisation.
  • It is an example of a portrayal of Mäori that became typical of European artists and photographers in the closing decades of the 19th and early 20th centuries - this portrayal normally showed Mäori in resigned poses, often looking downwards and lost in thought, which in part reflected a widely held belief in fatal impact theory; many Europeans believed that the Mäori race was in decline and would eventually die out, if not as a race then as a culture, due to its inability to withstand the impact of contact with a 'superior' European culture.
  • It presents a view of Mäori that was based on a romanticised European idea rather than on fact - this style encouraged an emotive response by showing defeated, oppressed-looking Mäori belonging to an earlier time, and was designed to appeal directly to an European audience.
  • It provides valuable if flawed information about Mäori precolonial times - international curiosity about Mäori, including clothing (especially the cloaks), hairstyles and personal adornments after the New Zealand Wars fostered a market for portraits.
  • It illustrates traditional artefacts such as handheld weapons and the use of feathers in Mäori society.
  • It illustrates the nature and place of tä moko in Mäori society - such tattoos were often performed on men of mana, such as chiefs and warriors, and carried information on the wearer's whakapapa (genealogy).

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • 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
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements