Maori Depictions In European Art

Though out history, many cultures have used art to depict cultures. When the first European sailors and settlers arrived in New Zealand and discovered the Maori people and culture they would often create artworks depicting Maori and the culture. However often these representations of Maori by European artist would be romanticised, glorify and inaccurate depictions. Take for example this painting by R.A Oliver showing Maori women, under a tent.


R.A. OLIVER,  “A Group outside a tent, Pomare’s Pa, Bay of Islands” 360 x 535 mm. N.d

This is a painting of “maori” women standing under a tent. Oliver painted unrealistic depictions of Maori women. To glorify and make these paintings more aesthetic to appeal to a European artistic style. (Bell, 145) these colonial art works are a “mere creation of a pakeha [European] mind.” At fist glance at this painting we see Maori women dressed in traditional cloaks as well as European garments. These painting were created to give others a since of what the Maori culture was like however the images are very westernized and colonized into a European way of life.  This was not traditional dress for Maori women at this time.  They are also depicted in a nontraditional area, the scenery clearly alludes to the presents of European settlers with fabric tents. This picture is that Bell states as ( 144) “ignorance of aspects of Maori culture”, because European artist didn’t truly understand the Maori culture, depictions are very conventionalized. Oliver’s way of illustrating these women is a disrespect toward there Mana. Mana is a level of understanding and respect. By depicting them incorrectly is a disrespect towards the maori culture and the women in this image. His level of ignorance toward the Maori  allowed the artist to romanticized the culture in European style.  This is why it’s important to have a level of understanding toward unknown cultures. to be able to illustrate the culture correctly .

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 (Summer, 1990), pp. 142-149
Bell,Leonard. “Colonial Fortunes, The New Zealand Paintings of Commander R.A Oliver” N.d,




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