Monday, 16 May 2011

NZ Wars - Maori (1)

Colonel Despard continued to shell Ohaeawai, until on 8 July 1845 it was discovered that the pa had been abandoned overnight. Despard then destroyed it which enabled the British to claim a victory, despite their shattering losses of the 1 July attack. The Governor of New Zealand, Robert FitzRoy (the captain of HMS Beagle on Darwin's voyage, a descendant of Charles II and the future inventor of the weather forecast), saw the need for grandiose propaganda claims but knew that the British had achieved nothing near a victory in the field and lacked the resources for doing so. He therefore commenced peace negotiations, first with Heke and then, reluctantly, with Kawiti, whilst simultaneously puffing up the British attacks over the past few months. The stumbling block in the negotiations was the cession of some Maori land, over which neither Heke nor Kawiti appeared to claim title and so was designed to give FitzRoy another propaganda "victory". However, Kawiti prevaricated, knowing full well that the British were hardly negotiating from a position of strength, and the British offer of terms lapsed in September when FitzRoy was replaced by the redoubtable Captain George Grey. Grey had some sympathy for FitzRoy two-pronged propaganda and peace strategy, but realised that a peace settlement at this time would be tantamount to the British accepting defeat. So there would be more bloodshed before the Flagstaff War came to an end.

These photos show musket-armed Maori from 3 different packs in the Empress Miniatures range. My interpretation of the Empress Maori figures has caused some disagreement in the Allison household. If you google for colour photographs of Maori you will find people who look more "red" than "black", with skin tones that are more Polynesian than Aboriginal. Now I know from my visits to NZ that Maori skin tones are not uniform and the Kiwi made the point to me that Maori in the 1840s would have been darker than they are now. She thinks my Maori are too "red" and should be darker. Fair point and I'm sure she is correct, although if you look at the Maori portraits painted by Goldie and Lindauer in the closing years of the 19th century their subjects don't look all that "dark". However, getting skin tones right on 25mm non-Caucasians is tricky and everyone has their own idea of how differently they think such figures should be painted (with my AWI Indians, for example, I used the same flesh paints that I use for the Europeans). My approach to painting Maori skin was to find something that looked different to the paheka figures, but which was noticeably more "Pacific" than "Darkest Africa". I settled on the Foundry palette "South American Flesh 119", which seemed the most suitable of all the Foundry flesh palettes and at least is the closest in geographical terms. This look may not be the most historically accurate, but I'm pleased with it.

Another reason for choosing a slightly lighter skin colour was to ensure that the tattoos stood out better. These I painted with a dark blue colour rather than black (using Foundry "French Blue 65A"), which I think is more authentic anyway but also just looked a bit better. I decided that a "less is more" approach with ta moko was best. If you look at pictures of tattooed Maori from the 19th century you see that their entire faces were often covered with intricate tattoos, but obviously that would be very difficult to replicate in 25mm and probably look a complete mess anyway. So I've gone for reasonably simple geometric and swirl designs and made sure that those figures wearing shorter skirts had tattoos on their thighs and buttocks. In the 1840s Maori were still wearing traditional, rather than Western, clothes, and in fact these figures are probably wearing more clothes than they would have done in battle. I decided to follow a browns and beiges colour scheme to tie the warriors together.

6 figures. Painted April 2011.


Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Nice work Giles! This project really has you motivated with a steady stream of posts. Good job on the tattoo's which are difficult to do. Interesting bit on the gentlemen and weather forecasting.


Ubique said...

I love the amount of thought and detail that goes into painting 'toy soldiers' (I'm glad I'm not the only one).


Bedford said...

Again, of great interest to me.

Sorry to be a pain and ask again, but what would you recommend in terms of historical literature for the subject of the Flagstaff Wars?


Mericánach said...


James Cowan's "The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)", available to read online here:

"To Face the Daring Maoris" by Michael Barthrop is a collection of soldiers' impressions of the First Maori War 1845-47

These wouldn't be bad places to start.

Mericánach said...

Oh - nice work, Giles. As usual!

Giles said...

Thanks, guys.

Darrell - apologies, I am intending to do a bibliography in the last post. But actually all the good books have already been mentioned by Arteis and Pat. Most of the material I have used for these posts is from James Belich's "The New Zealand Wars", David Green's "Battlefields of the New Zealand Wars - a Visitor's Guide" (both published by Penguin) and Ian Knight's various Osprey titles.


Bedford said...


That would be great! Look forward to it :O)


I'll do a search for both these books later today- thanks :O)


Roly said...

I picked up 'To Face the Daring Maori' second-hand on the other day.

It is a very good read - one of those history books where the writer has a sense of narrative and drama, rather than just delivering and interpreting facts.

Roly said...

As to Māori skin tone colour, I think the picture at the bottom of this article in my blog isn't too far off:

Māori do range in skin tone these days. But I think you are probably not far off with South American skin, as even to this day it is easy to mistake the two.