Captain Cook statue targeted by vandals

By Kayla Dalrymple

Vandalised statue of Captain Cook in Gisborne. Photo / Facebook
Vandalised statue of Captain Cook in Gisborne. Photo / Facebook

After more than 2200 "shares" on Facebook and countless letters to the editor, the controversial statue at the Cook Plaza on Kaiti Hill remains a hot topic in Gisborne.

The statue has recently been the target for vandals who have repeatedly daubed it with paint. This week an identical paint attack occurred at the Cook statue at The Cut.

Letters to the editor have been received from many places, including Hawaii. But the person farthest away to weigh in with an opinion on the future of the statue on Kaiti Hill, or Titirangi, was Captain Cook Society president Cliff Thornton, in the United Kingdom.

Based on extensive research by Kiwi writer Christopher Paxton, Mr Thornton says the statue actually is Cook but its uniform is not authentic. In many quarters it has been thought to be an unknown Italian Admiral because the depicted uniform was considered Italian.

"The original sculptor was Italian and did his best to create a figure to represent Cook.

But a bit more research by the sculptor would not have gone amiss," says Mr Thornton.

The original statue was erected in 1884 by the Captain Cook Brewery in Auckland. A copy was gifted by the brewery to the Gisborne region in 1969.

"There are so many good statues of Cook around the world that could have been copied. It is unfortunate that Governor-General Sir Arthur Porritt, chose such a poor example to be copied.

"It is so unlike Cook that I for one would not miss it if it were to be removed from Kaiti Hill - especially as Gisborne would still have that excellent statue of Captain Cook erected in 1994."

The 1994 statue Mr Thornton refers too is the more accurately-dressed Captain Cook at The Cut, a stone's throw from where the first meeting with Maori took place.

Following last week's front page story on "Crook Cook", the issue of whether or not the vandalised statue should remain, or perhaps be replaced by Rakaiatane - the Ngati Oneone Maori chief at the time - has also been covered by Maori Television and Radio New Zealand.

Gisborne not alone in Cook vandalism

Mr Thornton says Gisborne is not alone in the vandalism of Cook monuments, or heated conversations around indigenous representation.

"In recent decades and especially since the development of social media, indigenous peoples around the world have made their voices heard.

"As Captain Cook was usually the first European to visit their shores, some of the indigenous peoples blame him for many of the problems that have subsequently affected their communities. He has become an easy target, an historic scapegoat."

Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii on February 14, 1779 - but not before he and his crew killed around 30 Hawaiians, including a Hawaiian chief, with muskets and cannons.

A monument commemorating Cook at Kealakekua Bay is also regularly defaced.

In Melbourne, the Cook family cottage has been daubed with hostile graffiti.

Such is the lot of explorers, says Mr Thornton.

"Communities forget that if Cook and his crew had not collected artefacts, painted landscapes and portraits of the people they met, and recorded the life-style and customs they encountered, we would know significantly less about these societies from 250 years ago."

- Gisborne Herald

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