This series of artworks has been honoured as a set of 5 stamps to commemorate Tuia 250.
When Tupaia, an arioi priest and navigator from Ra‘iātea, guided Lieutenant James Cook and the Endeavour from Tahiti to Aotearoa in 1769, a reconnection was made between Māori and their ancestral homelands. As featured on these stamps, New Zealand artist Michel Tuffery has created original artworks in response to his discoveries about where his personal history meets that of these first encounters.
About the artwork:
Despite the importance of Tupaia to Cook’s first voyage, as navigator, interpreter, artist and a man of high rank who commanded respect where ‘Kuki’ and his crew could not, no portrait survives of him.
Here we see Tupaia as migratory tuna fish, bound into Cook’s hair, guiding the voyage and translating between people long separated yet always connected—seeds sown from Ra‘iātea. A hei tiki pendant given to Tupaia and now in the Royal Collection (UK) peeks from Cook’s collar; his shoulders are draped in the star navigator’s fine taaniko-bordered cloak, now in the Pitt Rivers Museum (UK); and British barks face Māori waka in the background of Tōtaranui/Queen Charlotte Sound.