Indigenous | Haka

Earliest known oil painting of a haka on display in Auckland

'War Dance at Taranaki' by English artist William Strutt was first exhibited in 1857. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased it with assistance from Andrew and Jenny Smith, the Lyndsay Garland Trust, Graeme Maunsell Trust, Dr Ian Wilson bequest and R H Berryman bequest, 2023. Photo / Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

This article was first published by RNZ.

The earliest known oil painting of a haka will be exhibited at Auckland Art Gallery this weekend.

The piece, War Dance at Taranaki by English artist William Strutt, was first shown in 1857 but has since been held in private collections and rarely seen by the public.

Gallery director Kirsten Lacy said it was an incredibly rare artwork and a major addition to the gallery’s collection.

“This work holds immense historical importance, and I am delighted to be bringing this into a public collection where all can enjoy and learn from it.”

She said the painting, purchased for $885,000, is one of only seven the artist painted of New Zealand.

“Artworks of this calibre are rare on the market - the last time the gallery purchased a historic New Zealand work of this significance was 34 years ago in 1990,” Lacy said.

Poumatua head of kaupapa Māori Joe Pihema said the gallery was pleased to bring the toanga back into the public domain.

“The Taranaki iwi connected to this painting have been kind and generous in sharing their knowledge and mātauranga to provide a more fulsome historical context,” he said.

Visitors can view the painting from today as part of the Gallery’s New Zealand collection display Taimoana | Coastlines: Art in Aotearoa.

By Evie Richardson of RNZ.