Another drawcard for the museum

EDITORIAL

The misdressed, much maligned cast bronze statue of Captain James Cook installed on Kaiti Hill/Titirangi for the bicentenary of the explorer’s arrival here will be removed several months out from the dual heritage-focused sestercentennial, restored and relocated to hopefully a prime position at the Tairawhiti Museum.

It deserves that, and will be a drawcard just as it has been as a quirky accompaniment to Gisborne’s most-visited viewing area for the past half-century . . . where it has appeared in thousands of tourist snaps and, for the past two decades, been labelled the Crook Cook and endured various acts of vandalism — as some have taken to blaming Cook for the harms of colonisation as well as the deaths of probably six Maori during those first encounters.

The statue’s inaccurate uniform was noted right from the beginning, with the designer of its original plaque appealing to Mayor Harry Barker seven weeks before it was unveiled, saying it was that of an Italian admiral and suggesting a better statue to have copied.

“Matters are so far advanced that it is now not possible to make any change . . . I do not doubt that when the statue is erected it will cause a certain amount of comment, the most we can hope for is that it will be a nine days wonder and that attention will be attracted more to the plaque itself and the monument than to the statue. The position is regrettable, apparently unavoidable,” Barker replied.

With facial features bearing only passing resemblance to the portraits of Cook we mostly see now, a new plaque was installed in October 1998 that erroneously proclaims “Who was he? We have no idea!”

In fact, the original marble statue, commissioned by the owner of the Captain Cook Brewery in 1882, was based on the most familiar image of Cook then available to the public (its uniform appears to have been largely made up).

An update report for councillors before their meeting yesterday highlighted a risk for the removal and relocation of the statue being that this might be misunderstood by the public. How ironic that would be, to attach more misunderstanding to this inaccurate but iconic statue that has evinced such mixed emotions since October 1969.

The misdressed, much maligned cast bronze statue of Captain James Cook installed on Kaiti Hill/Titirangi for the bicentenary of the explorer’s arrival here will be removed several months out from the dual heritage-focused sestercentennial, restored and relocated to hopefully a prime position at the Tairawhiti Museum.

It deserves that, and will be a drawcard just as it has been as a quirky accompaniment to Gisborne’s most-visited viewing area for the past half-century . . . where it has appeared in thousands of tourist snaps and, for the past two decades, been labelled the Crook Cook and endured various acts of vandalism — as some have taken to blaming Cook for the harms of colonisation as well as the deaths of probably six Maori during those first encounters.

The statue’s inaccurate uniform was noted right from the beginning, with the designer of its original plaque appealing to Mayor Harry Barker seven weeks before it was unveiled, saying it was that of an Italian admiral and suggesting a better statue to have copied.

“Matters are so far advanced that it is now not possible to make any change . . . I do not doubt that when the statue is erected it will cause a certain amount of comment, the most we can hope for is that it will be a nine days wonder and that attention will be attracted more to the plaque itself and the monument than to the statue. The position is regrettable, apparently unavoidable,” Barker replied.

With facial features bearing only passing resemblance to the portraits of Cook we mostly see now, a new plaque was installed in October 1998 that erroneously proclaims “Who was he? We have no idea!”

In fact, the original marble statue, commissioned by the owner of the Captain Cook Brewery in 1882, was based on the most familiar image of Cook then available to the public (its uniform appears to have been largely made up).

An update report for councillors before their meeting yesterday highlighted a risk for the removal and relocation of the statue being that this might be misunderstood by the public. How ironic that would be, to attach more misunderstanding to this inaccurate but iconic statue that has evinced such mixed emotions since October 1969.

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