Pomara in London, 1846
conference contributionposted on 15.07.2020, 04:01 by Robin Skinner
Pomara in London, 1846 'The Spectator' declared it to be "the most interesting exhibition of the season." For three months in the London summer of 1846, George French Angas exhibited watercolours and artefacts of New Zealand and South Australia, providing many Europeans with their first detailed exposure to representations of Māori and their material culture. Exhibits of portraits of Māori, and images of pā, as well as examples of weapons, carvings, canoe models, birds and minerals caused many to reassess the disparaging view of Māori that the New Zealand Company had been putting about. However, the greatest contributor to the exhibition’s outstanding success was the striking presence of a young Māori man named Hemi Pomara, or Pōmare, who attended the show each afternoon. He was described as "the orphaned son of a Chatham Islands chief." In 1844 Pōmare travelled with Angas to Sydney, and then to London. Meeting royalty, members of the nobility and learned society, his intelligence and arresting countenance made an exceptional impression of those who met him. His likeness was published in a magazine and he became the subject of a poem. After the exhibition, things did not go so well. Following the exhibition Pōmare found work in shipping; however, the special status which he received in London did not continue. At sea, he was physically assaulted, returning to Sydney in 1847, and then on to New Zealand. This paper discusses Pōmare’s time abroad and his impact on the Europeans.