KINDER, Rev. John

Te Rapa, Lake Taupo, Dec. 28, 1861. The Scene of Te Heuheu’s Death

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Watercolour on paper
210 x 295mm

The inclusion of two descriptions for this work reflects the Maori and Pakeha curatorial approaches taken for the exhibition Te Huringa/Turning Points.


Jo Diamond

Kinder’s watercolour of Te Rapa is typical of his well-ordered painting style, resonating with his formal artistic education in England. Like many other paintings by this prolific artist, it is also a frozen account of one of many landscape scenes he beheld during his long life in Aotearoa. These scenes are predominantly rural and often devoid of human figures. This painting is no exception with hilly smoothed-off terrain dominating its composition. An incidental waka floats on a placid lake surface. However, it is the painting’s title that indicates another facet of Kinder’s life: his knowledge of and interest in Maori people.

This painting’s title, referring to a highly esteemed tupuna of Ngati Tuwharetoa could also point to Kinder’s own religiosity. With its posthumous (by some 15 years) reference to the death of the Tuwharetoa rangatira, Mananui, in Maori eyes this painting’s title pays homage, whether the artist intended so or not, to the mana of a man, his people and the land that sustained them. Te Heuheu’s mana, imprinted into the whenua, thus prevails beyond his death, thanks in part to this painting. Kinder provides a hint of the landslide that brought Te Heuheu’s death so swiftly: the central hill appears paler and newer than the others. The painting does not limit its subject to that tragedy alone; in broader terms it points to the long history of the Ngati Tuwharetoa rohe in the Taupo region.