Oldest Surviving Photograph of Māori Discovered

The oldest surviving photograph of a Māori person, a picture of Hemi Pomara, has been discovered in the National Library of Australia, an historical “scoop” being lauded on both sides of the Tasman. Eleanor Ainge Roy reports on the find for The Guardian.

Pomara was kidnapped from his home on the Chatham Islands in the early 1840s by British traders, after his family were slaughtered by a rival Māori tribe.

Pomara was sent to school in Australia, before being transported to London and displayed as a “native” of the colonies before the royal family, at the British and Foreign Institution, as well as the Egyptian Hall, where he was a living display, Ainge Roy writes.

Previously, the first visual record of Pomara was a faded watercolour, but now researchers at the Australian National University in Canberra have found a photograph of the young Māori man posing in his korowai in London in 1846.

The Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra researchers say the photograph was “almost certainly” made by Antoine Claudet; one of the most important figures in the history of early photography.

“All the evidence now suggests the image is not only the oldest surviving photograph of Hemi, but also most probably the oldest surviving photographic portrait of any Māori person,” ANU researchers say.

Original article by Eleanor Ainge Roy, The Guardian, June 30, 2020.

Photo by National Library of Australia.


Tags: Guardian (The)  Hemi Pomara  Photography