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Entitled, “The Sorcerer Of Hiva Oa (Marquesan Man in Red Cape)” and painted by Paul Gauguin in 1902.
What you’re seeing here is a person known in Polynesian society as “māhū” (literally, “in between”). These people were oftentimes the society’s genealogists, caretakers of children and elderly and “medicine men” (hence, sorcerer). Captain Bligh also records a meeting with one of these individuals on Tahiti in 1788.
Today and in western society we would call this a transgender person. Although it may not be well known, understood or recorded, transgender people have had a very long existence in many cultures and societies around the world. At some point I may share a few more examples.
To make this just a little more personal, the name of the person depicted is Haapuani. I have to admit that I find it somewhat perplexing that this person is described as a man, altho having no firsthand knowledge of the scenario my suspicion is that Gauguin either lacked a better descriptive for his European audience, or perhaps thought better of it.
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