Tuesday September 27, 2016   Last updated 09:42AM
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Portraits depict transformation and upheaval
Alexandra Turnbull Library

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A unique collection of Māori portraits are to be exhibited together for the first time next week.

National Library Māori curator Paul Diamond says English artist Isaac Coates painted the 22 watercolours 160 years ago, capturing a time of upheaval after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

His subjects were living through a time of fundamental transformation as the Māori and European worlds bumped up against each other.

“You can see this in the portrait of Pikiwati, who has a partially tattooed face, drawn in exquisite detail, but is also wearing European dress: a blue jacket and neck scarf,” Mr Diamond says.

Head and shoulders: Portraits of Māori will be in the Turnbull Gallery until to 16th March.

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