The orchestra that participated in the opening ceremony of the New Zealand International Exhibition held in Christchurch in 1906 played a central role in signaling what officials described as “nationhood achieved,” as the country marked its move from British colony to dominion. This contribution to nationhood was negotiated through acts of exclusion as well as empowerment, particularly in relation to gender and race. Exhibition officials sought to ban women from participation in the orchestra, demonstrating the tenacious rhetoric of masculinity prevalent in orchestras of the period. Although women eventually overcame this ban, New Zealand’s Indigenous Māori population remained barred from self-representation on the exhibition stage, instead performing their culture as ethnological entertainment beyond the concert hall. At the exhibition’s opening ceremony, it was the orchestra that represented Māori; in the third movement of the Exhibition Ode composed for the event by the orchestra’s conductor, New Zealand composer Alfred Hill, the orchestra performed “in the time of a haka” (Māori war dance). Drawing on an examination of archival material pertaining to the exhibition and analysis of the haka movement, this article argues that the performance of Hill’s haka movement by both women and men in the exhibition orchestra was an act of “brownface” in which the empowerment of the white women of the orchestra was complicated by questions of appropriation and assimilation. Examining the haka movement as event and score illuminates both the role of women in colonial cultures and the colonizing practices of orchestras themselves.

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