SELF-PORTRAIT: How We View Ourselves

Portrait on the Left was Drawn by an Englishman
Self-Portrait on the Right was a drawn by the Maori Chief himself

Drawn over 300 Years Ago

NEW ZEALAND TATTOO of Maori Chief Tupai Kupa, "as drawn by himself over a hundred years ago for his friends in Liverpool". When this Maori was being painted by his friend John Sylvester, he looked on with great interest, but he presently shook his head, and declared that it was not at all the picture of Tupai Kupa. Those present and others coming in were greatly surprised. All were agreed that the features had been hit off with rare ability. But Tupai Kupa smiled with a superior and self-satisfied air. With his finger he pointed to the forehead and said laconically: "That not me!" But still greater was the amazement when the Maori, asking for the pencil, with extraordinary skill drew his portrait as he conceived it, and as I here reproduce it." --Leo Frobenius, 1909

Taken from Social Fiction
The Childhood Of Man
by Leo Frobenius, 1909


P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

This fascinates me- was the chief telling us something about how we perceive ourselves- for him He saw his art,I humbly imagine all the stories of the tattoos OR did he see himself more as an essence (godlike) and as man he was only a mortal? Please illuminate-

elizabeth avedon said...

In the foreword of Julia Blackburn's "The White Men", Dr. Edmund Carpenter writes: "I once exchanged portraits with a Papuan. Using three-dimensional perspective, I created a likeness of him that his fellow tribesman could recognize as his portrait. His portrait of me, however, was not individually identifiable. Since I was a white stranger, he saw me as a ghost and he painted me as a headless, reptile-like figure, which is the conventional Papuan motif for all ancestors."