Nga¯ti Kahu: Portrait of a Sovereign Nation was launched on Te Paatu Marae at Pama¯puria. This is an abridged review of it by Paul Moenboyd (Te Aupo¯uri, Nga¯ti Pa¯ oa, Te A¯ tiawa).
‘The summit of Rangika¯piti Pa¯, in the Far North town of Mango¯nui, overlooks the wide expanse of Tokerau Moana (dubbed Doubtless Bay by a quickly convinced Cook) and a vast swathe of Nga¯ti Kahu’s rohe. Similarly, Nga¯ ti Kahu, Portrait of a Sovereign Nation isa sweeping overview of this iwi’s physical and emotional topography, its memories and heartaches, struggles and victories.
‘Just as Nga¯ti Kahu draws its strength from its many different hapu¯, so the Portrait is made richer by its wide range of sources. These include irreplaceable oral histories gathered by the project’s historians, documentary evidence of wrongful land purchases, maps, quotations from an extensive bibliography of other works, excerpts from letters and testimonies . . . Each of these constituent parts come together to trace a remarkable hakapapa of resistance.
‘True to its title, the Portrait is a nation-building exercise. In scope and reach, covering the long haerenga (journey) from distant beginnings to the challenges of the present . . . illustrating events with first-hand experience and steeped in Nga¯ti Kahu’s understanding of itself and its place in the world, this work is a pou (a marking post), carved with pepeha¯ (identifying sayings) and hakatauk¯ı (proverbs), and ko¯rero o mua (traditions) . . .
‘The Portrait does not overlook the heke (rafters) that sustain the roof, the hapu¯ that form Nga¯ti Kahu. The inhabitants of ka¯inga (settlements) nestled in valleys or dotted along the coast all have their time on the paepae (speakers’ bench). With the deep love of place that comes from generations of continuous occupation, stories of back country rivers and hills and the riches within are told, as only those who have kept the ahi ka¯ (home fires) burning for so long can.
‘ ... In a tone which would be bemused exasperation if not for the injustices that followed, the Portrait observes the difficulties of the first Pa¯keha¯ in “living according to the laws of this land.” Despite its dispossession, Nga¯ti Kahu tells of the arrival of these guests not with anger, but with sadness at how the generous hospitality that was shown to the new arrivals was repaid.
‘This Portrait is more than a testimony to Nga¯ti Kahu’s tenacious struggle to hold on to its home. It is also a defiant cry of independence, identity and love for the people and land, founded in a deep awareness of the past and hope for the future. It is a rewarding read for anyone with an interest in history, identity, and how memory shapes not only our sense of self, [but also] the landscape we live in and the way we imagine our future.’
Published by Huia, Portrait is available in bookshops nationwide.
"This Portrait is more than a testimony to Nga¯ ti Kahu’s tenacious struggle to hold on to its home. It is also a defiant cry of independence, . . . "