Dating to the 1890s, Josiah Martin’s portrait depicts a young Maori woman named Susan from Rotarura, an area in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island initially settled by the Maori in the 14th century. In a tasselled cloak and with a feather in her long hair, Susan wears a large tiki around her neck and holds a carved flat greenstone club, all of which are typical accoutrements in Maori culture. A moko, or tattoo, has been inked into the negative. The photo is in many ways reminiscent of Gottfried Lindauer’s 1878 portrait of Pare Watane, today in the Auckland Art Gallery (fig. 1).
Fig. 1, Gottfried Lindhauer, Portrait of Pare Watane,
oil on canvas, 103 x 86 cm, Auckland Museum of Art
Susan, whose Maori name was Tuihana, was listed as a guide in the April 1910 Register of Native Guides in Government Reserves at Whakarewarewa, Rotura. Soon after the first missionaries and traders arrived in Rotorua, local Maori began to turn the inquisitiveness of the visitors to their advantage by showing them the geothermal environment. Under government control from 1894, the tourist industry became more developed from then onwards, and guiding became a formalised profession for local Maori women, though remained a seasonal activity, with brisker business in the summer months.
Born in London, Martin worked initially in insurance and then the coal mining industry, before immigrating to New Zealand with his wife and daughter in 1867. Martin settled his family in Auckland where he founded a private academy in 1874, finding his first vocation as a gifted and innovative teacher. Failing health compelled him to resign his headmastership to focus on photography, in which field he quickly gained an international reputation for ethnological and topographic images from New Zealand and Polynesia. His photographs are very important records of late 19th-century New Zealand and can be found today in leading international institutions.
Susan appears in a second photograph by Martin, clearly taken at the same time. She appears with another guide, whose name is inscribed on the negative as ‘Ngapuia’.
Fig. 2, Josiah Martin, Portrait of Ngapiau and Susan,
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