Cover: Anne of Cleves
The discarded bride

In with a chance to become the fourth Queen of England, Anne of Cleves could have saved herself a whole heap of bother had Facebook  existed in her day.

For starters she could have cut out the middleman artist, posted her own selfie and just sat back and waited for King Henry VIII to take one of three possible actions: click like, make a comment such as “LOL”, or unfriend her on the spot (today’s equivalent of beheading).

But no, in the 16th century you had to go and get your portrait painted. Pity the poor artist, Hans Holbein the Younger, caught between his plain subject, an out of control King and a punishing time frame.

But Henry was quite taken with the portrait. It was Anne of Cleves herself whom he loathed on sight. Referring to her as ‘that Flanders mare’, he is reputed to have claimed she did not look English enough. And if you want to know what that means, read The English Face – which Oscar Wilde dismissed in just  four words (the face that is, not the book):

Once seen, never remembered

The Royal marriage was never consummated and was finally annulled. But the portrait lives on, as portraits tend to do.

Cover: A Face to the World
Your own self portrait may not look as good as this!

There is so much human drama in this little bit of history and whichever part of it piques your interest, the library has the book for you: books on portraits, King Henry VIII and social networking.

You may even be tempted to paint a self portrait. Be warned though that nothing will drive you to substance abuse faster than attempting to make a painting of  yourself, cutting as it does to the core of the disparity between how you think you look and what the rest of the world may actually be seeing.

But my absolute favourite book of faces is a book on moko tattoos called The Blue Privilege – The Last Tattooed Maori Women : Te Kuia Moko  by Harry Sangl. This art book is rare for me, in that I devoured all the paintings with my eyes and read every word with my heart. It truly is a taonga.

And were it ever to crop up on facebook, I’d go the whole hog: like, comment and share.

Musings on Mau Moko

Mau Moko is an absolute treasure.  In my opinion this is the best book we have in our collection on the subject of Moko (often described by others as Māori tattoo). The book is the result of Dr Ngahuia Te Awekotuku’s doctoral thesis and as such provides a fascinating and comprehensive introduction and exploration into the world of Māori moko – both the facial and body moko worn by men and the more delicate and beautiful moko kauae worn by women. If you have an interest in Moko, this book is an easy and engaging read.

Some of the ideas explored in the book include the history and traditions associated with moko from pre-colonisation to the present day, an exploration of the links between moko and other aspects of Māori culture, the cultural values (whakapapa, tapu, the wairuatanga) associated with moko, discussion on gender and how this relates to moko as well as delving into the current revival and resurgence of the traditional art form by providing case studies of those who have chosen to mau moko in the present day. To make it even better, the book is full of strikingly beautiful images and photography.

If you do read this book, and are keen to learn more, we have over 40 titles at Christchurch City Libraries that relate to moko you may be interested in. You may also like to check out the latest edition of the Ngāi Tahu Magazine Te Karaka, which has a moving feature article sharing the stories of Kai Tahu takata who all wear moko.

This book also features on our latest Staff Picks from the Ngā Pounamu Māori Collection List, which has a real variety of titles – if you’re after some inspiration for your summer reading list you might like to have a look here as well.