0197 "The native inhabitants, although cannibals, were a fine and warlike race" – On the Popular Image of New Zealand in Nineteenth-Century Europe

  • Miriam Oesterreich (Author)
    TU Darmstadt

    Miriam Oesterreich, PhD, works as a research assistant with Prof. Alexandra Karentzos in the department of Fashion and Aesthetics at the Technische Universität Darmstadt (since 2013). Her current habilitation project focuses on the global entanglements of modernist Mexican Indigenism. She studied Art History, Spanish Literature and Ancient American Cultures in Heidelberg, Havanna (Cuba), Valencia (Spain) and at the Freie Universität Berlin. In 2015, she defended her PhD on historical advertising pictures dealing with ‘exotic’ bodies (supervised by Prof. Werner Busch and Prof. Karin Gludovatz, Freie Universität Berlin) which will be published as a book in the series Berliner Schriften zur Kunst, Wilhelm Fink-Verlag. As she specialized on Latin American topics, she completed her studies with a Master thesis on the Mexican painter and muralist Raúl Anguiano and his treatment of indigenous subjects in the 1950s. She was research assistant in Transcultural Studies at the University of Heidelberg (2008-2011) and worked in the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum (Ludwigshafen a. Rh.) where she initialized and curated several exhibitions. In 2016, she was a fellow at the Transregional Academy "Modernisms – Concepts, Contexts, and Circulation" in Sao Paulo/Brasil, in 2017 at the Transregional Academy "Mobility – Objects, Materials, Concepts, Actors" in Buenos Aires. Her current research project on the entanglements of Mexican avant-gardes was honored with the TU Darmstadt department prize for specifically innovative research. Selected publications: Bilder konsumieren. Inszenierungen ‚exotischer‘ Körper in früher Bildreklame, 1880-1914. Wilhelm-Fink-Verlag 2018 (forthcoming); (together with Kristian Handberg) Other Archives, Alter-Canons and Alter-Gardes: Formations and Re-formations of Art-Historical Canons in Contemporary Exhibitions. The Case of Latin American and Eastern European Art. In: Journal of Art Historiography special issue 2018 (forthcoming); Migrations of the ‘Exotic’ in Early Advertising Pictures. Travelling between High and Low, Here and There, Idea and Thing. In: Migrations in Visual Culture. Belgrade: Pontes Academici 2017 (in print); Körper-Ästhetiken. Allegorische Verkörperungen als ästhetisches Prinzip. Ed. with Cornelia Logemann/Julia Rüthemann. Bielefeld 2013; Rajkamal Kahlon. Doppelbilder/Double Vision. Ed. by Miriam Oesterreich. Exh.cat. Wilhelm-Hack-Museum Ludwigshafen. Bielefeld/Berlin 2012; Das atmende Dazwischen. In: Punkt.Systeme. Vom Pointillismus zum Pixel. Exh.cat. Wilhelm-Hack-Museum Ludwigshafen. Heidelberg 2012, pp. 79-85; Der Beatus von El Burgo de Osma. Die Apokalypse – Eine Enthüllungsgeschichte? Einige Fragen zu Körperkonzepten in den Miniaturen von 1086. In: Visionen vom Weltende. Apokalypse-Faksimiles aus der Sammlung Detlef M. Noack. Ed. by Caroline Zöhl. Exh.cat. Berlin 2010, pp. 45-49; Indigenistische Aspekte im Werk Raúl Anguianos – Die Reise nach Bonampak. In: Differenz und Herrschaft in den Amerikas. Repräsentationen des Anderen in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Ed. by Anne Ebert et al. Berlin 2009, pp. 283-294.

Identifiers (Article)


The New Zealand to be discovered in the popular media of nineteenth-century Europe is surprising: foremost because it is scarcely present. Other British colonies like those in North America and Australia were much-loved subjects for popular exotic pictorial inventions, for example in illustrations to Karl May novels, product advertising, posters for world exhibitions and the so-called ethnological expositions, or successful journals like Die Gartenlaube in Germany. Images of the islands and their inhabitants are noticeable by their absence in product advertising in Europe. Likewise Maori appear to have not featured at the ethnological expositions, though they do appear considerably in scientific and scholarly publications.

Hence, the essay makes the case that in this context high and popular culture are frequently not clearly distinct from one another in the nineteenth century: the scientific and scholarly literature served an extremely broad circle of interested persons in a bourgeoisie hungry for knowledge. The oil paintings of the academic Gottfried Lindauer, for example, were shown at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 in London side by side with ethnographic artefacts and a recreated Māori habitat in the New Zealand Court. Thus, the overall image of the islands conveyed in the Exhibition matched the contemporary taste of indulging in excessive impressions at such expositions. Textual descriptions and interpretations of what was seen also heavily featured in the press, while a few successful novels painted a picture of the typical ‘New Zealander’.

The picture Europe had got of the British colony New Zealand in the nineteenth century was richly faceted, albeit not particularly differentiated. The essay aims to describe these various facets and, moreover, identify how they depended on their popularity in the different media.


New Zealand, Nineteenth Century, popular representation, scholarly representation, Colonial and Indian Exhibition, 1886, London