Telling the Stories of our Ancestors: Titokowaru Part 3

Maui Studios Māori Chief

Kia ora ano everyone

We’ve recently landed a mean project through Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori to create iwi graphic novels for our Taranaki iwi, Ngāruahine.

It’s an awesome project that gives us the chance to clue up on some of the local history from in South Taranaki.

One of the graphic novels we’re working on depicts the story of our hearty Ancestor, Titokowaru, Riwha and his defiance of the British and Armed constabulary ( In previous posts I've written it as Colonial and Armed Constabulary, but these two were in fact the same group. The British force was sent on behalf of the Crown and were British, The Armed Constabulary were actually Colonials coming from all over Europe and parts of America to settle and find a new life in the exotic Aotearoa. This group was made of British, Irish, American and French immigrants. These people took up arms to defend their new 'home' as the Crown had dictated that they were to be self sufficient and basically be able to look after themselves. ) -  garrison during the 1860’s.

Disclaimer: The details written here are based on what I've learned from Tawhiti Museum, my own independent research and how I understood them. If they conflict with other historic accounts then kei te pai, please comment about it below, and we can compare notes. I'm no research genius but I do see how the detail makes something go from average to amazing. Details here will be refined and developed over time, and it's important to note this will be conversational and is not for a Phd or anything.

You're essentially looking into my own personal notebook/ sketch book on this journey.

This is all fits into the Māui design and development process

The first post is here

And here is the second

We're still going through - Research Project of Titokowaru - Visual Library

My reading list has ramped up a bit, which is good. I've covered these two texts and finished 'I shall not die' by James Belich whilst training in the Cook Islands -

Click book to read

Click book to read

Click book to read ( discovered to have faulty details )

Click book to read
( discovered to have faulty details )


This post will show a number of examples of what the Māori people looked like during this period, some details of what the British and Colonial Soldiers looked like and some details on the surveyors equipment ( important to the story).

As I've talked about briefly in a previous post, the details of the Māori appearance during 1860 - 1880 are close to what you'd expect.  

The Maori are of a general build, built lean, wearing piupiu, and korowai and have adopted many items from Colonial troops. Some of these items include, top hats and bowler hats, the flintlock muskets, carry ammo cases, and leathered carriers.

Other items include

  • Ferns

  • Headbands

  • Axes

  • Tomahawks

  • Kilts

  • Blankets

  • Snider Carbine, 577 Calibre ( Musket )

  • Taonga

  • Taiaha

  • Patu/mere

  • Feathers

  • Moko

  • Tupara ( Double Barrelled Shotgun )

  • Calisher and Terry Carbine, 539 Calibre ( Musket )

Maui Studios Maori Warrior
Maui Studios Maori Warrior

Provided are some examples of how these characters will look. 

The Maori depicted in the coming story are from the Taranaki Iwi Ngaruahine ( neighbouring iwi allied to this main force), and look much like the examples above. We'll be depicting them heroically, as you would find with any super hero depicted in western hero tales. As the Protagonists of our story, the Maori  will be portrayed in the best light possible. Based on the many historic texts we've gathered our knowledge from, the Maori were valiant, brilliant war genius' ( savage at times, for the benefit of the forces mana, as well as for propaganda purposes, and for psychological warfare, which we find to be very successful, scaring many British and Colonial soldiers into mutiny). They were very tactful, mindful whilst paying strict attention to their tikanga. They'd gather sufficient intelligence and make very educated decisions on the next best course of action. What was great about this was their decisions were consistently positive for the growth of their campaign. Our ancestor Riwha Titokowaru's approach would crush the mana of his opponents. We see this in the defeat of Colonel Thomas McDonnel ( Mana crushed ), Frederick Gustavis Von Tempsky ( popped in the head, and killed) and later Colonel George Whitmore ( Mana Crushed and revenge never fulfilled). We explore these ideas later in the story.

The main addition that comes to the Maori dress is carriers for holding ammo. Our heros would either wear leather straps with pockets or woven flax pouches for holding their freshly cast bullets. 

The British Force

At the time of the Treaty of Waitangi the British regarded New Zealand as an adjunct to their colonies in Australia, and it only became a colony in it's own right in 1841. Because of this British troops in the early conflicts were usually despatched from, and returned to Australia.

This force fought on behalf of the crown and we're filled with trained professionals. They were the more uniformed of the invaders and were lead by big names like Colonel Thomas McDonnel, Frederick Gustavis Von Tempsky and Colonel George Whitmore. 

There uniforms only slightly changed from the Napoleonic Wars

Headgear was the recently authorized ' Albert pattern' shako of tilted, tapering, cyclindrical shape with peaks front and back

These soldiers often travelled with following:

  • Plain round cuff

  • Collar and Shoulder Straps

  • Trousers

  • Forage Cap

  • Pork Pie cap

  • Water Wooden Cask

  • Flintlock Muskets

  • Calisher and Terry Carbine, 539 Calibre ( Musket )

  • Snider Carbine, 577 Calibre ( Musket )

  • Thick Knives

  • Blankets

  • Shell J

Militia and Kai Iwi dress

British Troops

NZL Armed Constabulary

I've included some details of the British and Armed Constabulary. and what their lives looked like.


These guys had it tough. The surveyors job was to go into enemy territory and labour to measure out, highly disputed and contested land. They were to peg and mark distances so the land could be divided and sold or given away. The trouble was that more often then not, this land was Maori land, still occupied and his work was often subject to sabotage. They worked in the worst conditions with minimal resources, were hated, poorly paid, and always in constant danger. How they managed to survive was a feat in itself.   

Depicted below are their chains, and surveying equipment.

Research is one of those things you could never really do enough of, but as I've said I'm not really a researcher ( if research about kaupapa Maori is your buzz and you'd like to help out, come and korero, I'm sure we can make it worth your while)

So instead I've been real keen to get into some illustration techniques to start to refine some of the ideas inspired by this research.

These will appear in the next post.

If you've got some good insight or anything, I'll be keen to read about it, just comment with it below

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