Captain Cook’s first landfall in New Zealand was in my home town Gisborne on 7 October 1769.
Things went badly and Cook’s men shot 4 Maori, Te Maro of Ngati Oneone being the first of those.
The 2 sides lined up on opposite sides of the Turanganui River. One unarmed Maori (history hasn’t left a name) was persuaded by Cook’s Tahitian navigator Tupaia to swim across. He stopped at a rock close to Cook’s riflemen. Cook waded out and the 2 exchanged a hongi (nosepress greeting). Cook then sailed south to Mahia, naming the area Poverty Bay because “it afforded us no one thing we wanted”.
I’ve tried to capture their courage and mistrust. The faces borrow from the old faces/candlestick optical illusion and a Pink Floyd album cover.
The rock – Te Toka-a-Taiau – was formerly a tribal boundary between Ngati Porou and the local iwi Rongowhaata but was detonated when the port expanded in 1877.
Young Nicks Head in the background is reputed to be the expedition’s first sighting of land (some recent histories argue for an inland peak) by Cook’s surgeon’s boy Nicholas Young, who was given a gallon of rum for his troubles.
Acrylic on canvas 12″x18″