A PICTURE TELLS A THOUSAND WORDS
Stories from He iti whetū : Ngāti Toa portraits.
Ngā Toi Arts Te Papa: Kanohi Kitea Māori & Pacific Encounters
This family portrait from the turn of last century is a remarkable and striking statement about family and identity. Titled Ko mātou me ā mātou tamariki, mokopuna hoki, or ‘Ourselves, our children and grandchildren’, this collection of family portraits within a single frame has been made and arranged with great care and consideration.
The centre piece to this photographic ensemble is a opaltype studio sitting of Wineera Te Kanae and his wife Hāna Kuti Te Kanawa (Hannah Cootes), surrounded by their family. It is surrounded by five satellite portraits of extended family members, among which are featured two of Hāna’s siblings and their respective families, Wineera’s second-cousin Hanikamu Te Hiko and family, and Wineera’s young nephews Wi Mekerei Rawiri and Rawiri Mihaka.
They have been arranged in a large hand decorated mat board made from card that has been enhanced with applied glitter and floral appliqués . On either side of the main portrait are two illuminated shields inscribed with the date and place of birth of Wineera and Hāna.
The carved frame was made by carver Piwiki Horohau (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa), probably while he was carving the ancestral meeting house Toa Rangatira, which opened in 1901.
It’s a remarkable object in its own right, and truly a taonga (cultural treasure) that would feature as an important heirloom in any family for its wonderfully elegant aesthetic qualities, and as part of a cherished memorial to family heritage. We don’t honour our families so handsomely these days!
But behind these portraits lies a much deeper historical narrative. A story about a blended family derived from two sisters arranged in marriage, and the unshakeable bond between two families bound together through tragedy and ultimately hope and the continuity of their legacy through shared heritage.
The origins of the Wineera Family
Descended from Greatness
This portrait depicts the blended family of Wiremu Neera (later contracted to Wineera) Te Kanae, great-grandson of celebrated warrior chief Te Rauparaha, and his two wives, sisters Harata and Hāna Kuti Te Kanawa, or Cootes.
Wineera’s arranged marriage to Harata was blessed with four children, Ria Te Uira, Hohepa, Heraani and Wiremu. But following Harata’s untimely death in 1878 both families agreed that Harata’s 17-year-old sister Hāna should marry Wineera, 16-years her senior. We are told that Hāna was less than impressed with the prospect of marrying her deceased sister’s husband. Hāna, like many young women, most probably yearned to make her own choices in love and life. However, a week in closed conference with family and elders convinced her to acquiesce. It was a decision that was entirely in keeping with Māori customary practice and assured both families that Harata’s four children and her 33-year-old widowed husband would be properly cared for, and that young Hāna was appropriately married.
These marriages aligned in union two famous Ngāti Toa ancestral lines, those of Te Rauparaha together with the senior family line descended from the ancestral hero Te Haunga. At the same time it brought together two families who shared both friendship and tragedy.
To understand the tikanga (rationale) behind these arranged marriages, it is necessary to briefly revisit the early days of an ambitious young Te Rauparaha as he prepared to imprint an indelible mark upon an entire generation of Māori and reshape the cultural landscape of a nation!
He Tipua He Taniwha
An object of fear. A water monster, dangerous and powerful
Te Rauparaha (about 1769-1849)
The story of Te Rauparaha is dressed in theatre and myth; even the story of his birth is shrouded in prophecy. When his father Werawera asked the now aged Ngāti Raukawa chief Korouāputa to marry his youngest daughter Parekohatu, Korouāputa deflected the question by asking why he wanted a mere ‘water carrier’. In truth Korouāputa was dependant on Parekohatu in his old age. Werawera replied that a water bearer might produce a great taniwha, a water monster. And with the passage of time it became clear that it was Te Rauparaha, the youngest of their five children, who would fulfil this prophecy.
The Story of Te Haunga
Eliza’s mother Te Rangitapuae composed this song of unrequited love for Hemi’s father, the whaler James Cootes (also known as Reweti Kuti), who left for Picton to continue whaling sometime during the early 1830’s. On his return to Kapiti he formed relationships with two cousins, Waitaoro Te Kanawa and Wharekiri, from whom the Cootes and Reweti-Cootes families descend.
It was Korouāputa who years previously petitioned the tribes for assistance to avenge the death of his uncle Te Autūiroro. And it was Marangaipāroa, Toa Rangatira’s son and heir and Te Rauparaha’s great-grandfather, who responded by gathering a small company of warriors under his sons to support the assembled Ngāti Raukawa collective in the ensuing battle, probably sometime in the first quarter of the eighteenth century.
Ridiculed for their small number, the Ngāti Toa won fame for their heroic bravery routing the enemy on the field and shaming their allies. Marangaipāroa’s youngest son Te Haunga emerged as the hero of the campaign. Te Haunga later distinguished himself in a similar campaign earning arranged marriages with two high-born Waikato woman, Te Kahuirangi and Tirapurua. Te Haunga became a celebrated warrior of his generation and his highly strategic political marriages ensured that his children and grandchildren inherited his celebrated prestige.
Many years later Te Haunga’s grandson Te Poa would become the trusted friend and comrade-in-arms of Te Rauparaha, whose grandfather Kimihia was also an elder brother of Te Haunga. These familial ties were even further strengthened when Te Rauparaha married Marore, Te Poa’s niece and great-granddaughter of Te Haunga.
Mate atu he tētēkura, ara mai he tētēkura ano
As one chief passes, so another rises to take his place..
While still a young man Te Rauparaha went to live among his mother’s people at Maungatautari in the Waikato heartland, where he became the arms-bearer to his maternal uncle, the paramount chief Hape-ki-tuā-rangi. Hape and Te Rauparaha fought many battles together during this time; It was probably through his mentor Hape that Te Rauparaha learnt much of his battle craft and military stratagem.
During this period several significant events occurred in Te Rauparaha’s life. He returned to Kawhia and married his kinswoman Marore. Marital arrangements were seldom founded on love alone, although he appeared to be very fond of her. In this case the marriage might have been all the more agreeable because Marore was the niece of his great friend and comrade-in-arms Te Poa (Te Poa’s first-cousin’s daughter). Te Rauparaha and Te Poa were not only great friends but cousins, each sharing a grandparent who were siblings. Together, Te Rauparaha and Marore had three children, Te Rangihoungāriri, Te Uira, and Tūtari.
Te Rauparaha proved himself as an ambitious and capable young man and is remembered for several small but notable campaigns in the greater Kawhia region and Waikato that enhanced his personal mana (prestige). His status among his peers was further enhanced when he returned to Maungatautari to attend the impending death of his older mentor and uncle Hape. The dying Hape addressed his people, asking who would succeed him after his death. Several times he asked but none would reply, when finally Te Rauparaha stood and addressed the assembly. He bid Hape to follow the footsteps of his ancestors and there await news of the greatness of Te Rauparaha, a greatness that would surpass even that of the exalted Hape. It was a bold and arrogant gesture, perfectly theatrical to fit both the significance and solemnity of the occasion of this great chief’s passing; and it would have aroused both the ire and the admiration of the audience. With Hape’s passing, Te Rauparaha’s gallant gesture earned him a place among the tribal council of Ngāti Raukawa, together with Hape’s widow Te Akau and the prestigious mere-pounamu Te Amokura.
The Amiowhenua Expedition 1819-1820
But perhaps one of the most significant events is Te Rauparaha’s participation in the combined Ngā Puhi-Ngāti Toa expedition known as Amiowhenua. Sometime during the year 1819 a large force of Ngā Puhi warriors arrived at Kawhia to join forces with Ngāti Toa warriors to embark on an extended campaign along the west coast as far as Wellington, across into the Wairarapa and returning through Kawhia again. It was a warriors’ quest where villages were sacked and plundered, at times with great loss of life, and the spoils of war gathered along the way. Reputations were made, men tested their skills, or died trying; and marriages and new alliances made as they swept through the country.
The Rev. Samuel Marsden noted the return of Amiowhenua to Hokianga in October 1820. They had been away for 11 months and returned with a large number of slaves and preserved heads, some of friends and relatives who died along the way, and others trophies of well-appointed enemies. It was during Amiowhenua, on Wellington’s south coast while watching a European sailing ship passing through Cook Strait, that the Ngā Puhi chief Patuone suggested to Te Rauparaha that Ngāti Toa might improve their position by taking Wellington as a home for themselves to gain access to Pākehā.
The Battle of Te Kakara (1821?)
But Te Rauparaha’s infamously daring campaigns had aroused the ire of his enemies closer to home and upset the delicate political balance in the region. While away with Amiowhenua, Te Rauparaha’s wife Marore, who had close genealogical connections with many of Waikato’s leading families, now became the focus of this unwanted attention. She was seized while visiting relatives in Waikato and put to death.
Te Rauparaha was devastated, as was Te Poa, who almost certainly grew up alongside Marore with whose grandparents, Tamarangataua and Te Rongo, were brother and sister respectively to Te Poa’s parents. Together they raised a taua (war party) and devised a plan to avenge her death.
But it only served to trigger a series of reprisals that would ultimately culminate in a decisive battle that would end Ngāti Toa’s several hundred years’ occupation of Kawhia, the battle of Te Kakara (about 1821)
Te Hekenga Mai Raro 1821-1823
Ngāti Toa now prepared to abandon their ancient homeland. It was an impossibly difficult decision, but one made easier by their desperate plight. The migration occurred over a period of at least 18 months, commencing sometime in 1821 and probably culminating in late 1823 or very early 1824 with a layover in Taranaki with their Te Āti Awa kin so they could consolidate, recuperate, and grow food for the second leg of the journey.
It was during this final leg to Kapiti that Te Rauparaha, Te Poa and their families were struck by tragedy. While encamped north of Ōtaki, a Muaupoko messenger invited Te Rauparaha to come and receive a large canoe. A small group including Te Rauparaha, Te Poa and their families went, leaving the main body of Ngāti Toa behind.
The invitation was a ruse to lure Te Rauparaha into an ambush, and they were attacked while inside the Muaupoko village. Te Poa, his son Taiko and wife Te Uira, Te Rauparaha’s eldest daughter were all killed. Te Rangihoungariri, Te Rauparaha’s eldest son, died a hero’s death, fighting overwhelming odds in a vain effort to reach Te Uira who cried out to her brother for help. Te Rauparaha narrowly escaped by breaking through the rear walls of the whare (house) and wrapping his garments around his head and arms to protect him from the otherwise lethal blows of his attackers. Te Poa’s son Te Rākaherea made a desperate escape, eventually making his way to the Ōhau river where Te Rauparaha found him bleeding profusely with eight spear wounds to his body and a spear shaft still lodged in his back!
More than just another formal family photograph, this family portrait is bound within this convoluted, yet essentially integrated, historical narrative underscored by significant whakapapa (genealogical interconnectedness) and the inheritance of legacy that sits at the very heart of this blended whanau.
It is this sense of legacy that determined the necessity of Wineera Te Kanae’s arranged marriage to sisters Harata and Hāna Cootes. The union of the descendants of Te Rauparaha and the illustrious line of Kimihia with that of Te Poa, and the line of the celebrated warrior chief Te Haunga, were now unified in kinship, friendship, and tragedy. Celebrated here in this group family photograph, in the continuity of that legacy, now prosperous and at peace in the world.