Friday, 13 May 2011
NZ Wars - Hone Heke
From a British perspective, the villain of the piece so far in the Flagstaff War is Chief Hone Heke (c.1807 - 1850). After the sack of Russell, the aim of British expeditions against the Maori were intended, ultimately, to kill or capture Heke and his ally Chief Kawiti. Who was Heke and what were his objectives? To be honest, it's difficult to know and these are questions that have traditional answers and revisionist ones. It is clear that Heke objected to the imposition of British law when it conflicted with Maori law and customs. Then again, he enjoyed the economic benefits of coexistence with pakeha, which suggests that his anger was directed at the colonial government rather than the existence of the white settlers themselves. He certainly used the rhetoric of war of liberation when it suited him, accusing pakeha as wishing to treat Maori as slaves, for example. But the again, he appears to have wanted the white man to remain. In the words of "revisionist" James Belich , "he wished to regulate, not reject, European contact and settlement." Unfortunately, the British authorities could not give ground, especially after the sack of Russell.
We left Heke in a strong position. He had driven settlers out of Russell and had seen off Colonel Hulme's attack on Puketutu. However, at this point Heke came into conflict with neighbouring tribes who, if not "loyal" to the British at least had decided not to throw their lot in with Heke and Kawiti. Heke abandoned Puketutu and went to an older pa, Te Ahuahu. Whilst Heke was off searching for cattle one day, this pa was seized by a pro-government chief called Te Taonui. In the ensuing battle to reclaim his pa, Heke was badly wounded and appears to have lost a large number of men. This battle reminds us that the Maori themselves were divided between those who supported the British and those who did not (and the painting in the last post of the attack on Puketutu shows loyal Maori on the left of the painting). But Heke had a lot of support and once recovered from his wound was still in the game, so to speak, as we shall see.
This Empress Miniatures figures is quite clearly Hone Heke. The sculpt is taken from the illustration of Heke in the Osprey MAA "Queen Victoria's Enemies (4)", which shows him wearing "a short cape decorated with kiwi feathers over a longer flax coat, and a sea captain's cap which he habitually wore." The Osprey illustration doesn't show what he's wearing underneath the flax coat, and this requires painting on the Empress figure. I followed the Osprey and then painted the undergarment with a mosaic/tartan motif (in free-hand, Roly, not using a pen!). In the 1850s and 60s Maoris appear to have worn tartan-ish patterns on their clothes and it seems appropriate that chiefs would have pioneered this look earlier. I will explain my approach to Maori tattoos in a later post!
Lastly, just to say that Blogger royally screwed this blog (and many others) over the past 36 hours, which explains the disappearance of yesterday's post and the additions I had also made to Wednesday's post, which added more detail to the attack on Russell that kicked off the Flagstaff War. Hopefully those posts are now restored (at the expense of an evening's painting tonight). But I reckon I have about half a dozen more posts to go, so hopefully I can continue the one-post-a-day story of the First New Zealand War.