Gone to Taupō: Golden addition to museum unveiled
Locals and visitors alike have the chance to see an exhibit steeped in New Zealand art history at Taupō Museum.
The Blind Woman of Taupō by legendary New Zealand artist Charles Frederick Goldie is now on display in Te Aroha o Rongoheikume, the museum’s wharenui (meeting house), thanks to a loan from an anonymous benefactor.
The incredible and absorbing painting, produced in 1934, has been loaned to the Taupō Museum for five years.
It will sit next to portraits of Ngāti Tūwharetoa chiefs Te Werahiko (Haukino) and Rutene Te Uamairangi Rahui of Ōpepe, painted in 1908 by notable artist and Taupō identity Thomas Ryan, in an exhibit called Goldie and Ryan.
At the unveiling today (Thursday 11 August), the new display was blessed and officially opened to the public.
While it is not known who The Blind Woman of Taupō is, museum staff believe this is an alluring aspect about putting her on public display. Will someone recognise her? Was she even from Taupō?
Speaking at the event, Taupō District Council events and venues manager Steve Giles said “there aren’t too many better work days than this”.
“A number of years ago I had the privilege of travelling to France and walking to the Louvre, standing in a queue of people as we shuffled past the Mona Lisa. I liken that a litle bit to today. We have the privilege as a team to be part of the guardianship or kaitiakitanga of the treasured Goldie taonga,” he said.
Goldie’s work concentrated on elderly rangatira (chiefs) with moko (tattoo), preserving the so-called “noble relics of a noble race”.
In 1901, he visited Rotorua where his old friend and artist Thomas Ryan was operating ferry services. It was through Ryan’s wife, Mary Wharepapa, and her Māori connections that Goldie was accepted by Māori and she helped persuade a number of Te Arawa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa models to sit for him.
He spent the autumn of 1907 in the Taupō region painting aged, tattooed Māori warriors. On his studio door he posted a notice “Gone to Taupō”.
The existence of Ryan’s Tūwharetoa chief paintings was not known by relatives until the portraits were shown on Te Karere, a Māori television programme. The paintings were due to be auctioned at the International Art Centre in Auckland. Eraita Ann Clarke and Hinetemoa Walker of Taupō, granddaughters of Rutene Rahui, recognised him as he has a distinctive spiral moko.
On confirming their discovery of the paintings, the auction house agreed to wait until they could find the money to purchase them. Eraita and Hinetemoa approached the Ōpepe Farm Trust for help as Rutene and his older brothers Wiremu and Kiriwera were the original owners of the Tauhara No. 4 Block at Ōpepe – a Māori kāinga (village) near Taupō.
There was additional special significance to the Trust in that Rutene, a venerated tohunga, is buried at Ōpepe. The Ōpepe Farm Trust purchased the portraits immediately.
In 1995, the paintings were welcomed back to the district by the Ōpepe trustees and descendants of both Te Werahiko and Rutene. They were kind enough to entrust the museum with these precious taonga.
At the unveiling, Mr Giles said credit had to go to all those involved in getting Goldie’s artwork together with Ryan’s at Taupō Museum.
“From a museum perspective, we’re hoping to help localise Goldie to our district and the team have come up with the name Goldie and Ryan. It’s trying to focus on that relationship the two artists had.
“We owe a great debt of thanks to the donors. Thank you for sharing your gift with us and the community. We thank the Reid whānau for supporting the relocation of the artworks to the wharenui.
“Finally, to the team at the museum. Thank you for your mahi, your continued enthusiasm, your dedication, your aroha for the arts and your committment to educating our community.”
For conservation reasons, only one of Ryan’s paintings will be displayed at a time. They will be swapped every six months.
Goldie and Ryan is now open to the public. The Taupō Museum is open daily from 10am till 4.30pm. Entry is free for locals and tamariki, $5 for adults, and $3 for seniors and students. Visit the Taupō Museum Facebook page or www.taupodc.govt.nz/museum for more information.