New site for Cook statue
THE “Crook Cook” will be installed on the grounds of Tairawhiti Museum but not before the completion of an interpretation project to accompany the contentious statue.
Museum director Eloise Wallace said staff were in the final stages of the interpretation development process.
The museum would present the statue with great care as it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to represent the statute uncritically and without regard to the wider discourse ongoing within the community, she said.
Museum staff were working not just on the story of the statue itself but “how we might best communicate the messages we would like to share about the statue in its historical and contemporary context”.
Staff were looking at “ways we might be able to encourage ongoing critical thinking and discussion as well as providing opportunities for people to share their own perspectives”.
“The approach we prefer to take when displaying complex objects such as this is based more on a co-development approach, with opportunities for feedback and adjustment as we move through the stages of the project.”
Discussions were ongoing with iwi, Gisborne District Council and subject experts.
“We are fortunate the museum has a group of trustees who represent the interests of iwi, council and the wider community, which enables us to work in this way.”
Mrs Wallace said the statue was in poor condition.
“It does present a challenge around safe installation and public display that we are still working through.”
The statue would be displayed outside because of its weight.
There was no date set for installation as that depended on contractor availability once the interpretation process was completed, she said.
The statue was erected on Titirangi/Kaiti Hill for the Cook Bicentenary in 1969 but never had the support of iwi.
The original Cook statue, believed to be sculpted in Sydney by an Italian, was erected in 1884 in Auckland by the Captain Cook Brewery and a copy was gifted to Gisborne in 1969.
Criticism of the statue and repeated vandalism led to Gisborne district councillors deciding in 2018 to remove the statue and relocate it at the museum.
The statue had became colloquially known as the “Crook Cook” because of doubts over whether the man depicted was James Cook.
It was widely believed the sailor was Italian because of his Italian-type uniform.
Mrs Wallace has previously written that a research project undertaken by writer Christopher Paxton (published 2012) confirmed it was a statue of Cook.
“The statue is a likeness of Cook that is possibly based on a head-and-shoulders engraving by English artist James Basire, 1777, which was in turn based on Hodge’s portrait of Cook, 1775-6.
“The face of the statue does not closely resemble today’s well-known portraits or sculptures of Cook.
“However, as only a small number of portraits were drawn from life, many ‘likenesses’ of Cook do not resemble each other.
“The Cook we recognise today is something of a stereotype, based on a proliferation of representations by generations of artist, engravers and sculptors.”
Captain Cook Society (of the United Kingdom) president Cliff Thornton wrote to The Herald four years ago in support of Mr Paxton and said “a bit more research by the sculptor would not have gone amiss”.