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Caption: Photographer: Henry Wright, 1899–1910, 1/1-020634-G, Alexander Turnbull Library.Here are some of the late-19th cen­tury Māori res­id­ents of Karaka Bay, in one of sev­er­al sim­il­ar pho­to­graphs by Henry Wright (1844–1932). The Pāke­hā woman is prob­ably Wright’s daugh­ter, while the man at the back is Wil­li­am Shil­ling, the Wel­ling­ton pilot based at nearby Wors­er Bay. The names of the oth­er sub­jects of the pho­to­graph, though, remain unknown.

Little is known about the Karaka Bay Māori set­tle­ment. It is likely that some of the res­id­ents were related to Mata Te Naihi, the wife of the whaler and early Wel­ling­ton pilot James ‘Wors­er’ Heber­ley. Karaka Bay, like the rest of the Miramar Pen­in­sula, had passed into European own­er­ship in 1840. Else­where in Wel­ling­ton, as the Wait­angi Tribunal Wel­ling­ton Tenths report makes clear, Māori com­munit­ies had been eased out of areas claimed by the new col­on­ists. Karaka Bay, how­ever, remained very remote from the town, with no road access and hardly any Pāke­hā homesteads.

Sev­er­al oth­er pho­to­graphs of the Karaka Bay set­tle­ment show large gar­dens, and raupō shel­ters and houses. It was also a fish­ing base. In this pho­to­graph, Wright’s main interest is the women with the child, and her dis­play for the cam­era of tra­di­tion­al kaitaka cloaks with very fine tāniko borders.

By the 1890s, the road, and com­mer­cial sub­di­vi­sion, had reached Karaka Bay. After the Seatoun Road Board received com­plaints from the new arrivals, the Māori res­id­ents were told that the keep­ing of pigs and the dry­ing of fish were illeg­al “nuis­ances”. Very soon after, the Māori set­tle­ment was gone.

The pho­to­graph­er Henry Wright was a Wel­ling­ton busi­ness­man of wide, and some­times eccent­ric, interests, per­haps best known for his much-repro­duced and much-derided 1902 pamph­let in which he urged “epi­cene women” to give up elec­tion­eer­ing and instead “cook their husband’s din­ners, empty the slops, and gen­er­ally attend to the domest­ic affairs for which Nature designed them”. He was a gif­ted pho­to­graph­er, though, who cre­ated many strik­ing images of Wel­ling­ton people and land­scapes. Much of his work was unknown until 1976, when 435 of his glass-plate neg­at­ives were dis­covered in the base­ment of a New­town house and donated to the Alex­an­der Turn­bull Library.

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