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Picture Perfect Dolls

Episode:80Te Papa Collection:History

Suggested curriculum levels:3 – 7

Curriculum connections:English: Listening, Reading, and Viewing, The Arts: Understanding the Arts in Context, Social Sciences: Identity, Culture, and Organisation

Description:Bessie Murray made these beautiful dolls to support her family. Riria Hotere uncovers her attention to detail in portraying the Māori women she saw down at the local store.

Questions for students

  1. Bessie Murray had several reasons for making the dolls. List these and explain the implications of each reason. Think about the social, artistic and economic contexts in which she was working. What can these contexts tell us?
  2. The dolls are considered especially important as a record of Māori women in the 1930s. What make them so special? What can we learn from the dolls about the lives of people in the past?
  3. Bessie Murray registered two designs with the Patent Office. What does this mean? Why do you think she did that?
  4. The narrator compares the dolls with Charles Frederick Goldie's paintings of Māori women. Use the 'Comparisons' response template to identify the similarities and differences. You may need to carry out research to compare eras and subjects as well as methods.
  5. In many art forms, careful observation is a critical part of capturing an image. How do you use observation in your own work? Is authenticity of detail important in your work? Why or why not?

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