As this “professor” was a near neighbour of mine, I frequently paid him a visit in his “studio,” and he returned the compliment whenever he had time to spare. He was considered by his countrymen a perfect master in the art of tattooing, and men of the highest rank and importance were in the habit of travelling long journeys in order to put their skins under his skilful hands. Indeed, so highly were his works esteemed, that I have seen many of his drawings exhibited even after death. A neighbour of mine very lately killed a chief who had been tattooed by Aranghie, and, appreciating the artist’s work so highly, he skinned the chieftain’s thighs, and covered his cartouch box with it.
I was astonished to see with what boldness and precision Aranghie drew his designs upon the skin, and what beautiful ornaments he produced; no rule and compasses could be more exact than the lines and circles he formed. So unrivalled is he in his profession, that a highly-finished face of a chief from the hands of this artist is as greatly prized in New Zealand as a head from the hands of Sir Thomas Lawrence is amongst us. It was most gratifying to behold the respect these savages pay to the fine arts. This “professor” was merely a kooky or slave, but by skill and industry he raised himself to an equality with the greatest men of his country; and as every chief who employed him always made him some handsome present, he soon became a man of wealth, and was constantly surrounded by such important personages as Pungho Pungho, Ruky Ruky, Kivy Kivy, Aranghy Tooker, etc., etc. My friend Shulitea (King George) sent him every day the choicest things from his own table. Though thus basking in the full sunshine of court favour, Aranghie, like a true genius, was not puffed up with pride by his success, for he condescended to come and take tea with me almost every evening. He was delighted with my drawings, particularly with a portrait I made of him. He copied so well, and seemed to enter with such interest into the few lessons of painting I gave him, that if I were returning from here direct to England, I would certainly bring him with me, as I look upon him as a great natural genius.
[Illustration: Specimens of Tattooed Faces and Thigh. (From “Expedition de l’Astrolabe.")]
One of the important personages who came to the village to employ the talent of our artist was a Mr. Rooky Rooky (and he was always very particular in remembering the Mister); he brought four of his wives with him, leaving six more at home (polygamy in New Zealand being allowed to any extent). One of this man’s wives was a little girl not more than ten years of age, and she excited a great deal of interest amongst us, which, when he discovered, he became very anxious to dispose of her to any of us. He importuned us incessantly on the subject, saying she was his slave, and offered her in exchange for a musket.