Book focuses on identity of Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti
THE completion of “A Carved Cloak for Tahu” is yet another literary accomplishment for local author Mere Whaanga.
Ms Whaanga (also known as Mere Whaanga-Schollum), who was born in Wairoa in 1952 of Ngati Rongomaiwahine and Ngati Kahungunu descent, is a celebrated writer, illustrator, historian and teacher.
Already holding a MPhil in Maori Studies, Ms Whaanga ﬁnished “A Carved Cloak for Tahu” while completing a two-year term as the Maori History Fellow with New Zealand’s Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
She strongly feels that the written record has largely supplanted the oral history of traditional communities, as contained in their songs and recited genealogies. Populations of rural indigenous communities living on ancestral land have steadily diminished over the past 50 years as people moved to the cities in search of work, and thus traditional knowledge has been further fragmented.
“A Carved Cloak for Tahu” holds great relevance to the Wairoa district as Ms Whaanga attempts to draw together fragments of knowledge about the identity of the sub-tribe Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti, represented in the carvings of its central meeting house “Te Poho o Tahu” at Iwitea. She is concerned with the identity of Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti as found in the songs, stories and carvings of Te Poho o Tahu and the process of recording the wealth of history upon which a tribe’s identity is founded.
Though focused on one particular region and people, the story has relevance for many other iwi and will have wide appeal. Told from a range of sources, such as waiata and whakapapa, it is well illustrated, attractive reading.
“A Carved Cloak for Tahu” is to be published in August but orders are being taken now at Take Note.
Ms Whaanga has also produced widely-used teacher’s resource kits on social studies, while her most recent work, in 2003, was
The Treaty = Te Tiriti, an illustrated guide to the Treaty of Waitangi for children.
Mere has also published a number of successful children’s books, several of which have been shortlisted for book awards.
Notable among these are The Legend of the Seven Whales / He Pakiwaitara a Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti (1988) and Tangaroa’s Gift / Te Koha a Tangaroa (1990), which was voted one of the Top 100 NZ Children’s Books of the 20th Century and turned into a play by performer/poet Alan Brunton.