Kennett Watkins arrived in New Zealand in 1873 and with his contemporaries Louis Steele and Walter Wright painted Maori and historical New Zealand subjects from the mid-1880s onwards. The present picture counts amongst the earliest of Watkins's representations of the Maori.
In his inaugural address to the members of the New Zealand Society as their First President in 1851 Sir George Grey had 'recommended that artists and poets engage with Maori tradition and culture ... However it was only towards the end of the century, particularly in the 1890s, and in the first two decades of the twentieth century, that the sort of views that Grey articulated were put into practice with any frequency or impact in art production in New Zealand.' (L. Bell, Colonial Constructs, European Images of the Maori, 1840-1914, Auckland 1992, p. 147). Watkins went on to collaborate with Louis Streele on a number of monumental oils of Maori subjects and the genre was developed in the multitude of Maori portraits painted by Dittmer, Lindauer and Goldie in the following decades