He Ringatoi o nga Tupuna

Author(s): Hilary and John Mitchell

Coffee-table books

Isaac Coates was an Englishman who lived in Wellington and Nelson between 1841 and 1845. During that time he painted watercolour portraits of 58 Maori from Nelson, Marlborough, Wellington, Waikanae and Kapiti. Some of these portraits have been well-known for nearly 180 years, although their creator was not definitively identified until 2000. The discovery in 2007 of a Coates book of portraits in the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University added many previously unknown images to his body of work. The portraits depict Maori men and women from chiefly whakapapa, as well as commoners and at least one slave. Coates's meticulous records of each subject's name, iwi and place of residence are invaluable, and his paintings are strong images of individuals, unlike the more stereotyped work of some of Coates's contemporaries. Whanau, hapu and iwi treasure Coates's works because they are the only images of some tupuna, and they are reminders of those who risked their lives to bring their people to a better life in the Cook Strait regions of Kapiti coast, Wellington, Nelson and Marlborough. In 'He Ringatoi O Nga Tupuna' eminent Te Tau Ihu historians John and Hilary Mitchell unravel the previously unknown story of Isaac Coates, as well as providing biographical details and whakapapa of his subjects, where they can be reliably identified. As well, they discuss Coates's work, and the many copies of his portraits held in collections in New Zealand, Australia, the US and UK.


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Maui John Mitchell is Ngati Tama/Te Atiawa from Mohua (Golden Bay). His great-great-great-grandmother's brother is one of Coates's subjects. John has been Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Canterbury, Warden of the Outward Bound School at Anakiwa, and active in many Maori organisations and issues including Whakatu Marae, Ngati Tama Iwi Trust, Wakatu Incorporation, Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, and the Foreshore and Seabed movement. Hilary Anne Mitchell is a West Coaster who has been a secondary school teacher, a Nelson City Councillor, a Commissioner appointed by local authorities to hear consent applications, board member of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and Nelson Tasman Heritage Trust, and involved in community organisations, especially those concerned with women and employment. Together John and Hilary have operated Mitchell Research since 1985. Over 35 years they have completed hundreds of studies, reports and briefs of evidence on a wide range of topics, including for hearings of the Maori Land Court, Environment Court, High Court, and the Waitangi Tribunal. They have published the four-volume series Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka: A History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough, which has won a number of awards.

General Fields

  • : 9781988550206
  • : Potton & Burton
  • : Potton & Burton
  • : May 2021
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Hilary and John Mitchell
  • : Hardback