Kennett Watkins

The Legend of the Voyage to New Zealand

The Legend of the Voyage to New Zealand by Kennett Watkins

Artwork Detail

The origin of Māori has preoccupied scholars since colonial times. By truncating and averaging genealogies collected from Māori, ethnologist Percy Smith developed the theory of a ‘Great Fleet’ of seven canoes arriving about AD 1350. While still keenly debated, current scholarship suggests that Māori arrived in waves over a period from the late 13th century.

The ‘legend’ of the title relates a story preserved in the oral history of two migration canoes, Tainui and Arawa, both of which made landfall when the pohutukawa was in bloom. In the excitement of seeing the red-plumed foliage of Aotearoa, some of the voyagers cast overboard their kura, the prized red-feather ornaments carried from Hawaiki, thinking the trees were filled with red-feathered birds. (Picturing History, 2009)

The Legend of the Voyage to New Zealand
Kennett Watkins
Production date
oil on canvas
1321 x 2667 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Messrs Samuel Vaile & Sons, 1913
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
New Zealand Art
Display status
On display

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