Studio portrait of a Maori woman dressed in a korowai (cloak with hukahuka or tassels). The korowai were a popular style of kakahu (Maori cloak) in the early 19th century. The kaupapa (foundation structure of the cloaks) is most proabably made from harakeke (flax, or Phormium tenax). Muka (flax fibre) is extracted from the harakeke and woven using whatu, a finger weft-twining technique. Adornments are attached to the surface of the cloak during the whatu process.The photograph was taken by the New Zealand photographer Arthur James Iles, a professional photographer active during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and largely based in Rotorua. It is one of a series of twenty studio portraits of Maori taken by Iles in Museum Victoria's collections. The photographer's imprint forms part of the image and reads: 'ILES PHOTO 70 THAMES. N.Z'. Iles photographed a range of subjects including people, landscapes, sites as well as the local flora and fauna. His specialisation, however, was portraiture, particularly of the Maori population. Throughout his career he relocated his studios many times, including Thames, Auckland and Rotorua in New Zealand and Sydney, Australia at the Falk Studios. In 1893, Iles had relocated to Thames, on the North Island of New Zealand and it was in this period and location that Iles really began to establish himself as a photographer of Maori people. He was able to attract Maori people to his studio with his association with Captain Gilbert Mair, a captain of Maori troops loyal to the colonial government, who faciliated visits by senior Maori men His marriage to Rebecca Elsie Utuatonga, a Maori woman in 1895, would have assisted Iles to encourage young Maori women to be photographed in his studio. Born in Oamaru in New Zealand's South Island in 1870, Iles would eventually, at just 21 years of age, establish his own photography studio in Central Otago in 1891. Iles' father was a photographer, and without doubt this early exposure to and association with photography, influenced his path. His marriage to Rebecca Elsie Utuatonga, with whom he had five children ended in divorce in 1932 and he subsequently married Ada Hunt. Iles died on 9 April 1943.

Physical Description

Albumen print. Studio portrait. Photographer's imprint bottom right corner. No information on reverse.

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