Voices of NZ wa¯ hine

Hastings Leader - - Book Review -

He Reo Wahine, by Dr Lachy Pater­son and Dr An­gela Wan­halla, ex­plores the is­sues that sur­rounded and di­rected Ma¯ ori women’s lives dur­ing the 19th cen­tury.

The au­thors fo­cus largely on colo­nial New Zealand and the so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural as­pects of the peo­ple.

He Reo Wahine is a com­pen­dium of let­ters, court doc­u­ments and notes, a glimpse into some of the real is­sues that plagued Aotearoa, such as the raids of Te Rau­paraha to the in­va­sion of Par­i­haka. We can delve into his­tory it­self and see from a first­per­son view the im­pact war had on these women and their fam­i­lies.

One wa¯ hine talks about the slay­ing of peo­ple in Nga¯ i Tahu by Nga¯ ti Toa Ran­gatira leader and com­poser of the world-fa­mous haka Ka Mate ,Te Rau­paraha. The loss suf­fered by the peo­ple of Nga¯ i Tahu is still re­mem­bered by their descen­dants.

Through the wa¯ hine Ma¯ ori voices inked into these pages, we be­gin to com­pre­hend the deep con­nec­tion these women felt about the land and new laws that pre­vented many Ma¯ ori from keep­ing it. These women were not so re­luc­tant to stand proud and ar­tic­u­late their thoughts where land or court was con­cerned. Some were suc­cess­ful in re-gain­ing their land.

The sto­ries are wo­ven to­gether del­i­cately to al­low these women’s voices to come through clearly. The au­thors have been care­ful not to as­sert their own per­spec­tives as they re­flect on dif­fer­ent texts, leav­ing room for fur­ther dis­cus­sion. While some pieces are wholly writ­ten in Ma¯ ori, all have the power to stir emo­tions.

For a young Ma¯ ori woman, this book can be mana en­hanc­ing in a way that de­feats the long-stand­ing as­sump­tion that Ma¯ ori women were un­e­d­u­cated and not re­spected — a pow­er­ful and heart-grip­ping book that af­firms the mana of wa¯ hine in the 19th cen­tury and pre­serv­ing the mauri or essence of their words — he reo wa¯ hine.

On Satur­day 20 Oc­to­ber, 3pm at the MTG Napier, Pat­ter­son and Wan­halla join Bar­bara Brookes (A His­tory of New Zealand Women) in a Read­ers and Writ­ers ses­sion of the Har­courts Hawkes Bay Arts Fes­ti­val.

The Shriek­ing Sis­ter­hood: women’s voices from the past, chaired by Tryphena Crack­nell, will dis­cuss the di­verse ways New Zealand women ar­gued for rights.

■ For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.hast­ingsli­braries.co.nz or phone 8715000.

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