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Vintage Rotorua

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Tiki at Ohinemutu, Rotorua, New Zealand, 1923 (Burton Brothers Studio)

I have been gathering a few images of vintage Rotorua, so I thought I would compile them into a thread.

Here is a Wikipedia link with some brief background on the town for those unfamiliar with it:


Rotorua has been a Polynesian-style tourist destination since the 1880s, and consequently predates Waikiki in this regard. New Zealand also featured tikis in its Rotorua-related tourism iconography well before they were commonly integrated into Hawaiian tourism brochures (which was circa 1960, according to p.93 of Tiki Modern).

Here is an example from an NZ Government tourism brochure from 1930:

And here's an NZ railways brochure, which looks like it is from the 1940s:

Or we could go back to the turn of the century, for images like this postcard (note the canoe's prow):

NZ Government Department of Tourism and Health Resorts - Series 2 1904, by Benoni White.

So in no particular, order, here are various other items for your perusal:

Cover of a 1951 publication about the Pink and White Terraces, Rotorua's biggest tourist attraction in the 1880s, which were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886.

Some postcards from the 1960s:

"A Maori carver, Fairy Springs, Rotorua":

"Tikitere (Hell's Gate), Rotorua":

"An extensive area of weird steaming infernos, mud volcanoes, boiling cauldrons, ponds of boiling mud and other subterranean outbursts, often half hidden in clouds of sulphurous steam. According to legend, a Maori girl of high rank was given in marriage to a local warrior chieftain. The young wife, Huritini, feeling herself to be treated with insufficient regard by her husband, cast herself into the pool that now bears her name."

And, to close this entry, here is a photo of Whakarewarewa village that my father took on holiday circa 1960:

I'll add more stuff as I come across it, or if anyone else has choice pics, feel free to contribute.


Toto, j'ai l'impression que nous ne sommes plus au Kansas !

[ Edited by: Club Nouméa 2011-11-12 01:27 ]

[ Edited by: Club Nouméa 2011-11-12 01:27 ]

[ Edited by: Club Nouméa 2011-11-12 01:28 ]

A very worthy subject for a post. I am usually not so interested in tourist culture, because in my mind, it is not as unique a genre as that of Polynesian Pop in America. Tourist kitsch is a widespread phenomenon, and souvenirs have been been manufactured and sold in all continents of the world, Asia, Africa, Europe, and so on.

But In New Zealand, Maori carvings are an exception. The transition from pre-contact to colonial to modern times was much more seamless but complex, with the carving tradition being kept alive throughout. The level of Maori artistry was so high before contact that upon arrival Western immigrants immediately were fascinated by it and tried to preserve its tradition, even though they were inadvertently altering it by their efforts.

As a location, Rotorua's importance to Maori arts is three-fold:

1.) As the site for Western sponsored Maori art for tourism, beginning in the 19th century with the model village of Whakarewarewa (as seen above and in these photos):

...and as the site for this clip, (which I cannot post often enough :) ) :

2.) Also as the location for the first and the current Maori carving schools:



And 3.) as the place where my favorite Maori carver, Tene Waitere, was most prolific in his art:

He was a major carver of Rauru, the meeting house now in Hamburg's Museum for Voelkerkunde:


The evolution of Maori artifacts from curios to heirlooms which are now governed by the Maori themselves is perhaps best documented in this book:

I am looking forward to seeing more imagery from the various periods of Rotorua in this thread.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2012-05-07 14:22 ]

Great links and photos! Does anyone else out there have any further offerings?


Wow. Thank you for sharing.


On 2011-11-12 19:38, Club Nouméa wrote:
Great links and photos!

You said it! The effort you put into your posts is greatly appreciated. My interest and knowledge is a little superficial in this area (especially in comparison to Sven!) but I'll see what I have in my picture archive.

In the meantime here's a link to a previous post I made about the famous Scholes Gallery in Rotorua - not much info but a couple of good shots of the interior:

I loved Rotorua, the mud pools were awesome and the dancing was fun to watch...especially those flying balls. Wish I had taken pictures. :( This thread is great...that terrace must have been fantastic.



Awesome thread! Love Maori carvings. Their singing is amazing, too.

Great idea for a thread. Bigbro, interesting history of the art of carving being handed down with support from the New Zealand government. Here is an old photo and news clip documenting that tradition in Rotorua.


Here is a vintage New Zealand travel ad featuring one of the carving schools.


Nice image - any indication of who did the artwork?


I know I have some interesting vintage stuff regarding Rotarua. I just don't really know which box it's in. So while I look, and then scan... please be patient. My New Zealand trek was great despite having only a few weeks. As one of the corners of the Polynesian expansion in the Pacific, New Zealand holds great interest to me.

And then there's that sulfur smell...

Here are some shots of the metal sculpture in downtown Rotarua, taken about 10 years ago... I remember at the time thinking what a cool place it was and how great to see a city celebrate their ancestral figures instead of ignoring them as relics of the past. (But then again, I thought 'Palmerston North' was fun too for a totally different reason.)

I really did enjoy the museum in Rotarua. The museums in New Zealand are wonderful. If you are going, I can recommend Napier's small but interesting facility. I spent a great deal of time in Te Papa in Wellington. Did the Christchurch museum (great as well) survive those savage earthquakes? They had a fascinating display of Polynesian neck ornaments on display at the time I went.

Waikiki Tiki; Art, History, and Photographs.
Available now from Bess Press Hawaii.

[ Edited by: Phillip Roberts 2012-01-09 19:08 ]

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread so far. It's about time I added to it.

Here are some selected cigarette cards relating to the theme. The ones from the "New Zealand Early Scenes & Maori Life" series are from 1926, while the "Beautiful New Zealand" ones are from 1928.

The first card includes some rather outdated views on the racial origins of the Maoris...

PS: In belated reply to the above question, yes the Christchurch museum survived the earthquakes - it had previously completed earthquake strengthening and got through them intact with just a few fallen bits of masonry.

Toto, j'ai l'impression que nous ne sommes plus au Kansas !

[ Edited by: Club Nouméa 2012-05-07 01:37 ]

[ Edited by: Club Nouméa 2012-05-07 01:40 ]

Great lil' cards! Looks like you found another portrait of Tene Waitere in # 39 Tiki Carver.

Yes, it does look like him. I wonder who the other people in the various photos were?

A while back I was intrigued by this image from Whakarewarewa...

now looking back on this post I'm wondering if this isn't Tene Waitere?

Vintage photos, before it landed in Germany, from 1904...

Maggie Papakura on the porch of Rauru house.

dated 1901-10

dated 1905

interior dated between1885-1901

Sophia 190-?

aloha, tikicoma


E. W. Payton, C. P. Parkerson and George Isles were the most known to photograph her.

Can't say that I was familiar with Makereti Papakura before today. Thanks for bumping the thread.

This is a great topic. Thanks for bumping it up. I also enjoyed Epi Shalfoon & His Melody Boys- 1930. Who would of seen the connection between Trad. Jazz and Maori culture?

Some additional New Zealand tourism ads.

Painting by Charles Goldie.

One of the interesting things to me about Maori tiki carvings are the 2 distinct styles.
The "Teko-teko" style is distinctly humanoid, with patterns carved like their tattoos.
The "Hei Tiki" style, with their square-ish heads tilted to the side, have a definite "ET" look to them.

On location for a film about 10 years ago, I visited Rotorua.
Here's a few more shots from that trip.

I found this old postcard:

Here's the same carving at the Maori Arts & Crafts center

Thanks rixzantis for posting those pictures, I was there about 10 years ago too...Rotorua is amazing. I also had the privilege of touring the University of Auckland Museum...a simply breath-taking collection of fabrics, weapons, Tikis, architectural structures, carvings and so much more.

This is a fabulous thread, the ephemera is great!!!

Rotorua tiki postcard from the 1910s by L. Biggar:


Just FYI, Ruihana is carving collective, not an individual. I bought a lovely pair of salad utensils this week with the same inscription (also dated 1980) and did some research. I'll post them in tiki finds.

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