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Para Matchitt’s life’s fascination with Te Kooti has delivered him a huge body of work, dedicated to a single man and period in New Zealand history. This set comprising of four Te Kooti paintings is a complete series and the only intact series in his private collection.
While the works make literal references to the past, revealed within the masked painting style of the period the artist offers his interpretation of why Te Kooti, as subject has been a constant feature in his work. Para’s passion of 40 years has been to celebrate Te Kooti’s capacity, to make a largest impression on Māori art, including the fact that Te Kooti achieved this to large extent, outside of his tribal boundary of Ngāti Kahungunu.
Te Kooti truncated background
Te Kooti was born about 1830 into the Rongowhakāta people of Gisborne. He was a Māori leader and founder of the Ringatu faith. He was educated at Waerenga-a-hika Mission school near Gisborne. For a time he was a horse dealer and he later sailed frequently between Gisborne and Auckland on Māori owned and operated schooners, eventually captaining Rua Whetuki a native schooner. He left Gisborne after a dispute with Pākehā traders. He was arrested for associating and supplying guns to the ‘hauhau’ that were considered dangerous rebels to the Government and shipped to the Chatham Islands in 1867 for three years with Hau Hau prisoners.
While he was there, he studied the Old Testament, on which he based the Ringatu Faith on. He began ministering while in the Chatham’s and in so doing, he established himself as a leader with prisoners. He made an escape by the Chatham’s by staging a coup and forced the crew of the Rifleman to take him to New Zealand. They landed at Poverty Bay near Gisborne where the Government asked him to surrender. After a failed negotiation, skirmishes broke out between Te Kooti and his troops and the Crown. The rest is history. Te Kooti eventually sought refuge in Te Urewera with the Ngāi Tūhoe people, finally finding himself in Ngāti Maniapoto King Country and lived under the protection of King Tāwhiao. He ministered whereever he went gathering huge support from Māori and frustration and concern from Pākehā. During this time he built numerous carved meeting houses throughout the country for the sole purpose of uniting people through the Ringatū faith. By 1883, Te Kooti received amnesty with a promise not to take up arms against the Government. His fame grew amongst people who feared and admired him for his horsemanship was unparalleled. He must have made quite an impression for he rode a white horse and always had a large entourage with him.
In 1887, Te Kooti visited the Bay of Plenty, Wairoa and Napier. In 1891, the Government granted him land at Ohiwa in the Bay of Plenty and died there on 17 April 1893.
The legend of Te Kooti persists today through waiata, through marae he built, multiple publications by historians, and documentaries. Māori remember him in numerous ways including a monthly celebration of Ringatu on the twelfth of every month. The Ringatu Faith is a thriving institution, practised by communities who sheltered Te Kooti and followed his teaching and his people of Rongowhakāta. His kupu-whakarite or prophetic sayings are in common usage today and he is celebrated as someone who lived and died for justice.
- Production date
- lacquer on board
- 1828 x 1220 mm
- Reverse, brushpoint: /Para Matchitt / 69 / No 5 / at Ruatahuna / (Te Kooti Series)
- Credit line
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2010
- Accession no
- Copying restrictions apply
- New Zealand Art
- Display status
- Not on display
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