Hemi Pomara: How we uncovered the oldest surviving {photograph} of a Māori

Hemi Pomara: How we uncovered the oldest surviving photograph of a Māori

It’s little surprise the lifetime of Hemi Pomara has attracted the eye of writers and movie makers. Kidnapped within the early 1840s, handed from individual to individual, displayed in London and finally deserted, it’s a story of indigenous survival and resilience for our instances.

Hemi has already been the premise for the character James Pōneke in New Zealand writer Tina Makereti’s 2018 novel The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke. And final week, celebrated New Zealand director Taika Waititi introduced his manufacturing firm Piki Movies is adapting the guide for the large display screen – one among three forthcoming tasks about colonisation with “indigenous voices on the centre”.

Till now, although, we now have solely been capable of see Hemi’s younger face in an embellished watercolour portrait made by the impresario artist George French Angas, or in a stiff woodcut reproduced within the Illustrated London Information.

Drawing on the analysis for our forthcoming guide, Empire, Early Pictures and Spectacle: the worldwide profession of showman daguerreotypist J.W. Newland (Routledge, November 2020), we are able to now add the invention of a beforehand unknown {photograph} of Hemi Pomara posing in London in 1846.

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This outstanding daguerreotype exhibits a wistful younger man, removed from residence, carrying the standard korowai (cloak) of his mainly rank. It was nearly definitely made by Antoine Claudet, some of the vital figures within the historical past of early images.

All of the proof now suggests the picture is just not solely the oldest surviving {photograph} of Hemi, but additionally most likely the oldest surviving photographic portrait of any Māori individual. Till now, a portrait of Caroline and Sarah Barrett taken round 1853 was considered the oldest such picture.

For many years this distinctive picture has sat unattributed within the Nationwide Library of Australia. It’s now time to attach it with the opposite portraits of Hemi, his biography and the broader dialog about indigenous lives throughout the imperial age.

A boy overseas

Hemi Pomara led a rare life. Born round 1830, he was the grandson of the chief Pomara from the distant Chatham Islands off the east coast of New Zealand. After his household was murdered throughout his childhood by an invading Māori group, Hemi was seized by a British dealer who introduced him to Sydney within the early 1840s and positioned him in an English boarding faculty.

The British itinerant artist, George French Angas had travelled via New Zealand for 3 months in 1844, finishing sketches and watercolours and plundering cultural artefacts. His subsequent cease was Sydney the place he encountered Hemi and took “guardianship” of him whereas giving illustrated lectures throughout New South Wales and South Australia.

Angas painted Hemi for the expanded model of this lecture sequence, Illustrations of the Natives and Surroundings of Australia and New Zealand along with 300 portraits from lifetime of the principal Chiefs, with their Households.

On this full-length depiction, the younger man seems doe-eyed and cheerful. Hemi’s juvenile kind is sort of completely shrouded in a white, elaborately trimmed korowai befitting his mainly ancestry.

The collar of a white shirt, the cuffs of white pants and neat black footwear peak out from the in any other case enveloping garment. Hemi is portrayed as an idealised colonial topic, civilised but harmless, regal but complacent.

Angas travelled again to London in early 1846, taking with him his assortment of artworks, plundered artefacts – and Hemi Pomara.

Hemi appeared on the British and International Establishment, adopted by a non-public viewers with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. From April 1846, he was placed on show in his mainly apparel as a residing tableau in entrance of Angas’s watercolours and alongside ethnographic materials on the Egyptian Corridor, London.

The Egyptian Corridor “exhibition” was applauded by the London Spectator because the “most fascinating” of the season, and Hemi’s portrait was engraved for the Illustrated London Information. Right here the marginally older-looking Hemi seems with darkly shaded pores and skin and stands stiffly with a ceremonial employees, a big decorative tiki round his neck and an upright, feathered headdress.

A photographic pioneer

Hemi was additionally offered at a Royal Society assembly which, as The Instances recorded on April 6, was attended by scores of individuals together with Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and the pioneering London-based French daguerreotypist Antoine Claudet.

It was round this time Claudet most likely made the quarter-plate daguerreotype, expertly tinted with color, of Hemi Pomara in costume.

The daguerreotype was bought within the 1960s by the pioneering Australian picture historian and advocate for the Nationwide Library of Australia’s images collections, Eric Keast Burke. Though digitised, it has solely been partially catalogued and has evaded attribution till now.

Unusually for photographic portraits of this era, Hemi is proven standing full-length, permitting him to mannequin all of the options of his korowai. He poses amidst the accoutrements of a metropolitan portrait studio. Nonetheless, the horizontal line working throughout the center of the portrait suggests the daguerreotype was taken in opposition to a panelled wall slightly than a studio backdrop, probably on the Royal Society assembly.

Hemi has grown since Angas’s watercolour however the trim on the hem of the korowai is recognisable as the identical garment worn within the earlier portray. Its speckled underside additionally reveals it because the one within the Illustrated London Information engraving.

Hemi wears a kuru pounamu (greenstone ear pendant) of appreciable worth and once more indicative of his mainly standing. He holds a patu onewa (short-handled weapon) near his physique and a feathered headdress followers out from beneath his hair.

We intently examined the fragile picture, the polished silver plate on which it was photographically shaped, and the leatherette case wherein it was positioned. The daguerreotype has been expertly colour-tinted to intensify the embroidered fringe of the korowai, in the identical deep crimson shade it was colored in Angas’s watercolour.

The rest of the korowai is subtly colored with a tan tint. Hemi’s face and arms have a modest quantity of pores and skin tone color utilized. Only a few practitioners outdoors Claudet’s studio would have tinted daguerreotypes to this degree of realism throughout images’s first decade.

Hallmarks stamped into the again of the plate present it was manufactured in England within the mid-1840s. The kind of case and mat signifies it was unlikely to have been made by every other photographer in London on the time. 

Survival and resilience

After his transient interval as a London “superstar” Hemi went to sea on the Caleb Angas. He was shipwrecked at Barbados, and on his return aboard the Eliza assaulted by the primary mate, who was tried when the ship returned to London. Hemi was transferred into the “care” of Lieutenant Governor Edward John Eyre who chaperoned him again to New Zealand by early December 1846.

Hemi’s story is tougher to hint via the historic report after his return to Auckland in early 1847. It’s doable he returned to London as an older married man along with his spouse and little one, and sat for a later carte de visite portrait. However the truth stays, by the age of eighteen he had already been the topic of a collection of colonial portraits made throughout media and continents.

With the current pressing debates about how we bear in mind our colonial previous, and strikes to reclaim indigenous histories, tales reminiscent of Hemi Pomara’s are enormously vital. They make it clear that even on the peak of colonial fetishisation, survival and cultural expression had been doable and are nonetheless powerfully decipherable at the moment.

For biographers, lives reminiscent of Hemi’s can solely be excavated by deep and wide-ranging archival analysis. However a lot of Hemi’s story nonetheless evades official colonial information. As Taika Waititi’s movie mission suggests, the following layer of interpretation have to be pushed by indigenous voices.

The authors wish to acknowledge the late Roger Blackley (Victoria College, Wellington), Chanel Clarke (Curator of the Maori collections, Auckland Conflict Memorial Museum), Nat Williams (former Treasures Curator, Nationwide Library of Australia), Dr Philip Jones (Senior Curator, South Australian Museum) and Professor Geoffrey Batchen (Professorial chair of Historical past of Artwork, College of Oxford) for his or her invaluable assist with their analysis. The Conversation


Elisa deCourcy is an Australian Analysis Council DECRA Fellow 2020-2023 on the Analysis Faculty of Humanities and the Arts on the Australian Nationwide College. Martyn Jolly is Honorary Affiliate Professor on the Faculty of Artwork and Design on the Analysis Faculty of Humanities and the Arts and School of Arts and Social Sciences on the Australian Nationwide College.

This text is republished from The Dialog underneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.



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