Colonial Art

moa hunt
Watkins, Kennett. The Haunt of the Moa, a scene in Puriri Forest. 1885, oil on canvas, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. https://www.aucklandartgallery.com/explore-art-and-ideas/artwork/11758/the-haunt-of-the-moa-a-scene-in-puriri-forest

I believe that this painting supports the idea discussed by Leonard Bell that the European settlers looked to give New Zealand a past (Bell, 144). And it is a wonderful thing that New Zealand’s history was being told except that its stories were already being passed down by the Maori people. Colonists however, wanted to show the history in a western style that either turned the Maori into savages, showed the Europeans as civilized saviors or displayed the country and its land as an Edenic paradise that was marketable which led to the birth of, “God’s own country.”  This painting does all three. By having a Moa hunted down by a Maori figure in the background of the painting, Maori are displayed as murderers who take the lives of benevolent and innocent prey. By not having any settlers in the image, the Europeans are removed from this image as representation is equally what is shown and what is left out. The lush greens used in the landscape show the land as fertile and thriving, with massive trees that tower above man and moa, only allowing small patches of brilliant blue sky in. This is also a Maori story being told by a European man as our society favours western ideals and would rather support them than those which come directly from our land.

 

Works Cited:

Bell, Leonard. “The Representation of the Maori by European Artists in New Zealand, ca. 1890-1914”. Art Journal, vol. 49, no. 2, Depictions of the Dispossessed, College Art Association, Summer, 1990, pp. 142-149.

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