Morning sun outside a pakapoo den in Taranaki Street, Wellington

Cleveland, Les
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Les Cleveland is one of New Zealand’s most well-known photographers. Born in 1921, he has been committed to documenting elements of everyday life and often raising them to iconic status. Cleveland’s photographs of Wellington in the 1950s and 1960s recorded distinctive and culturally important localities.

This image depicts a man outside a Packapoo den on Taranaki Street. Pakapoo is a lottery game, enormously popular among Chinese in colonial New Zealand. A Pakapoo ticket is purchased from an agent and contains rows of characters from the Thousand Character Classic, an ancient Chinese poem in which no two words are repeated. Similar to Lotto, the player marks a number of characters on their ticket. The master ticket is kept hidden and is marked by the organiser of the game. The ticket closest to the master ticket wins. Originally prizes were traditional Chinese items from the shop where the ticket was purchased, but as the game became popular among Europeans, cash prizes became more common. The draws, called "races" took place multiple times per day. In some of the premises devoted to Pakapoo, other gambling games were also played, bringing negative attention from local Police. Deemed illegal, both patrons and hosts could be arrested or fined. In the late 1950s when this image was taken, the government was reviewing gambling legislation. In 1961 the government run lottery ‘Golden Kiwi’, a legal version of Packapoo, was launched. This image is from a series where Cleveland captured buildings in Wellington’s ‘Chinatown’, in the Haining, Taranaki and Tory Street area.

Cleveland taught Political Science at Victoria University from 1966 until his retirement. In addition to his photography, he has written two major political works, and had a lifelong interest in creative writing, documentary making and the collecting and recording of New Zealand popular songs and ballads.
black and white photograph (printed c. 2001)
Frame: 536 x 436mm
Sight: 201 x 150mm
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Wellington City Council has permission from the copyright owners to use the images. You may not make copies, reproduce, sell or distribute these images. Apply to the copyright holder directly for permission.


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