Image 'At whare komiti', 1885

TLF ID R6119

This is a black-and-white photograph taken in 1885 by Alfred Burton. It depicts a group of 17 unidentified Mäori women and children in front of a thatched whare komiti (committee house). It was taken at Haerehuka, near Otorohanga, in the upper central North Island of New Zealand, and measures 12.5 cm x 17.8 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The photograph shows, most probably, the wives and children of the King Movement chiefs, who were also photographed by Burton (1833?-1914) at the whare komiti at this time.
  • The photograph depicts peoples associated with the Mäori King Movement 'or Kīngitanga' that began in the 1850s in an attempt to halt sales of land to Europeans and to promote Mäori authority and unity in New Zealand - the Movement believed that if Mäori chiefs would agree to elect a monarch who could claim a status equal to Queen Victoria's, they would be able to negotiate with the Europeans more successfully.
  • Dunedin-based photographer Alfred Burton took the photograph on a pioneering trip he made up the Whanganui River and through the King Country in 1885 - he was one of the first Europeans to travel through this area after the wars of the 1860s.
  • The photograph was taken during the 1880s, when Ngäti Maniapoto iwi (tribal) leaders were relaxing their opposition to a European presence in the region - they eventually agreed to put their lands before the Native Land Court and to allow the construction of the main truck rail line.
  • Alfred Burton travelled with C E Rochfort (1832-93), a surveyor engaged in establishing a river steamer route to connect with the railway - the trip resulted in Burton's now famous publication, 'Through the King Country with a camera: a photographer's diary'; at the time, Mäori were still innocent of the camera but fascinated by it.
  • The photograph provides an important insight into social and cultural details of Mäori life during a time of significant change - few photographs of Mäori had previously been taken outside the portrait studio.
  • Alfred Burton was an important New Zealand photographer, originally from Leicester, England, who settled in New Zealand in 1868 with his brother Walter - together they established Burton Brothers, a photography firm that went on to create a comprehensive photographic record of New Zealand in the 19th century.

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Alfred Burton
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: Wellington, NEW ZEALAND
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Alfred Burton
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Address: Wellington, NEW ZEALAND
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements