John Kinder

Tauihu, Waka taua Te Toki a Tapiri

Tauihu, Waka taua Te Toki a Tapiri by John Kinder

Artwork Detail

A skilled amateur watercolourist who trained under Aaron Penley in England, the Reverend John Kinder tried his hand at photography soon after emigrating to New Zealand in 1855, to be Master of the Church of England Grammar School in Auckland. The attention to detail which characterises his many paintings of the New Zealand landscape also informed his approach to photographic subjects, well evidenced by this image of the prow or tauihu of Ngäti Whätua's war canoe, Te Toki a Täpiri, photographed at Mechanics Bay. The ornate, finely-carved prow, silhouetted dramatically against the sky, exemplifies a level of craftsmanship which would have appealed to Kinder's aesthetic sensibilities. Kinder practised photography for almost two decades in an era when it was a complicated and labour-intensive pastime. The wet-plate process involved the chemical preparation of large plate-glass negatives followed by a lengthy exposure time and immediate development of the plate, requiring in effect a portable darkroom. Although there is a close visual and formal relationship between a number of his photographs and paintings, the former were not simply an aide-mémoire for the latter. Images such as Tauihu are autonomous compositions with individual merit. Tauihu is a record of a cultural artefact seen outside the museum, a memorable image that has accrued historical value with changing perceptions of such objects and their context. (from The Guide, 2001)

John Kinder

Tauihu, Waka taua, Te Toki a Tāpiri circa 1868

albumen print

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

purchased 1983

Te Toki-a-Tāpiri is the last traditional waka taua (war canoe) remaining from the 1800s. It is carved from a single tōtara log, over 25 metres long, and can transport close to 100 people. The waka’s structure was created about 1836 by Tamati Parangi and Paratene Te Pohoi for Te Waaka Tarakau, chief of the Ngāti Matawhāiti hapū (subtribe) and Ngati Kahungunu iwi (tribe), at Whakaki lagoon near Te Wairoa, Hawke’s Bay. Te Toki a Tāpiri was named after Tāpiri, one of Te Waaka Tarakau’s ancestors.

Before its completion it was gifted to Te Waaka Perohuka of Ngāti Kaipoho hapū and Rongowhakaata iwi. Perohuka, with other Rongowhakaata carvers, including Wiremu Te Keteiwi, Pātoromu Pakapaka, Nātana-hira, Toumata and Mahumahu, carved the prow, the sternpost and the thwarts.

The carving on Te Toki a Tāpiri is the oldest surviving example made by the Ngāti Kaipoho school in Manutūke. In 1853, Perohuka gifted the waka to Tāmati Waka Nene and his brother Patuone of Ngāpuhi iwi.

Prior to the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Tāmaki Makaurau in 1869, the waka was restored and it became the centrepiece of the large regatta on the Waitematā Harbour held in honour of Prince Alfred.

The waka passed into the guardianship of Paora Tuhaere, Ngāti Whātua chief of Ōrākei. The New Zealand Government later confiscated it and then presented it to Auckland Museum in 1885.

The Reverend Dr John Kinder made this first photograph of the tauihu (prow) of Te Toki a Tāpiri at Waipapa (Mechanics Bay) using the difficult wet-plate photography technique. In doing so, he produced one of the earliest photographs of a Māori taonga (treasure) in the history of New Zealand art.

Ron Brownson

September 2020

Tauihu, Waka taua Te Toki a Tapiri
John Kinder
Production date
circa 1865
albumen on paper
119 x 192 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1983
Accession no
Other ID
album page 11 Page Reference, 1983/22/15/A
No known copyright restrictions
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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