New Zealand and Maori presence at British Exhibitions.

I have had a letter from Margaret Werry of Chicago as follows, I was recently in the United Kingdom conducting research on New Zealand representation in World’s Fairs and Exhibitions during the period 1890-1914. I was given your name by librarians at the Hammersmith and Fulham Archives, who suggested that you might be able to help me with my investigations. I am interested generally in exhibitions with an ‘Empire’ theme and representation from the British Colonies and dominions (including permanent displays such as the Imperial Institute), and in particular in the coronation celebrations of the summer of 1911, at Crystal Palace (Festival of Empire, Pageant of London) and at the White City (the Coronation Exhibition). I have been researching in detail the activities of one particular group of Maori performers who entertained at both of these exhibitions. They went by the name of the Arawa Maoris, and were headed by a woman named Maggie Papakura, or Guide Maggie. I am also interested in examining their performance in the context of other ‘native villages’ or ‘exotic performances’ of the era.

I have met with members of the Crystal Palace Foundation who were very helpful in suggesting sources for publications, ephemera and records of C.P. exhibitions during this period. Might you have similar suggestions regarding the White City? I have already covered many major London based collections (at the British Library, the Minet, the V & A, Museum of London, Hammersmith & Fulham (Lila Buset Library), the Bishopgate Institute) and a few individuals who have collections of memorabilia.

I would be most grateful for any information or contacts you might have that would be of interest to me. I would also be more than happy to report my findings in your group’s newsletter.

Margaret Werry

Dear Margaret,

Thank you for your letter regarding New Zealand’s involvement in exhibitions. While I cannot help you regarding Maggie Papakura, I am of course aware that New Zealand had a presence at many of the early exhibitions. I have a fairly large collection of exhibition catalogues, and can give you a brief list of exhibitions that had New Zealand sections.

1862 International Exhibition. A New Zealand section plus small sections for the provinces of Nelson, Otago and Wellington. There is no mention of Maori participation.

1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition. A New Zealand section plus a Maori Court, containing displays but no Maoris.

1908 Franco-British Exhibition. One of the larger buildings was the New Zealand Pavilion, but as far as I know no Maoris. By now the colonies were finding the need to attract immigrants to settle, and from now till the late 1920’s this was an important reason for participating in exhibitions.

1909 Imperial International Exhibition. I have no record of the New Zealand Pavilion for 1909, but as it was there for 1908, 1910 and 1911 I am sure it was there in 1909.

1910 Japan-British Exhibition. The New Zealand Pavilion was still being used but there was no Maori presence as far as I know.

1911 Coronation Exhibition. White City. The New Zealand Pavilion was still being used but there was no Maori presence as far as I know.

1911 Festival of Empire. Crystal Palace. This was not an exhibition like the earlier examples but was a series of pageants. Part 4, Scene 4 was titled The Signing of The Treaty of Waitangi and was performed by New Zealand visitors.

1924 British Empire Exhibition. Again there was a large building, the New Zealand Pavilion, which featured a magnificent Maori house “Mata-Atua”, but there is no mention of Maoris present.

1925 British Empire Exhibition. Although held on the same site and with the same title, the 1925 exhibition was not a continuation of the 1924, but was different in many respects. There was still a New Zealand Pavilion but the Maori house seems to have gone. It is noticeable that most of the ephemera or pamphlets handed out at the exhibition were nearly all concerned with offers to families prepared to emigrate to New Zealand. This was not restricted to that country, Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia and Australia were all trying to attract settlers.

1938 Empire Exhibition. Scotland. Again New Zealand had a large pavilion with Maori artefacts on display.

This may not be of much help but it is the best I can do.

Can any member add anything to this? if so I shall be pleased to forward any information on to Margaret.

   © Exhibition Study Group 1999

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