Peter Alsop, a keen collector of New Zealand art and early advertising and the lead author of Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism, continues the story he started in our Exotica issue, of how the humble travel poster helped build the industry and a national identity along the way.
While the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts was central to galvanising an organised tourism effort, there were pivotal publicity events before. New Zealand’s earliest promotion was publicity about Cook’s voyages and, in a related but more commercial sense, the efforts from 1837 of the London-based New Zealand Company to promote emigration to New Zealand. Amongst the effort were prints – kauri trees and all – by Company draughtsman Charles Heaphy; amongst the best known of all 19th century New Zealand images.
Maoridom was a huge asset – New Zealand’s exotica – with a public line of ‘no racial problem in these happy isles’. In reality, it was a time of significant poverty for Maori and cultural appropriateness was also not part of the publicity brief. Images, for example, of Maori wearing ceremonial garb for daily duties were culturally wrong, and tourists discovering most Maori didn’t routinely wear flax skirts or feather cloaks came as a real surprise. Even today, New Zealanders’ enjoy a ‘tiki tour’ – a wandering exploration – despite trivialisation of ‘Hei Tiki’, a significant cultural artefact. Plump and comical warriors on official publicity, and straw hats on important cultural architecture, probably top the cringe.
Keen to find out more about these amazing New Zealand art treasures? Visit Peter's website to purchase the book and receive a 10% discount!