Change in tack for author
EXCHANGING the world of creative children’s writing for one of historical documentation was not as difﬁcult as it sounds for celebrated author Mere Whaanga.
Mere launched the result of her ﬁrst foray into historical writing at Iwitea Marae during the weekend.
“A Carved Cloak for Tahu” details the stories depicted in the carvings on the meeting house, Te Pohu o Tahu, at Iwitea.
Mere was approached by Iwitea’s kaumatua in 1990 to write the book, following the success of her ﬁrst children’s book “The Legend of the Seven Whales”.
Using the plan of the carvings as a basis, and history passed on from her father Horace Whaanga, Mere began the long task of researching the intricate history.
It was Mr Whaanga who was behind the original suggestion to create carvings for the marae, which was previously undecorated.
Master carver Taka Panere began the work at Takitimu in the mid-1980, but left the district before they were completed.
The carvings were stored at Iwitea until the launch of Mere’s ‘Seven Whales’ in 1988, which prompted the completion of the carvings by Broughton Johnson and a group of seven young men with marae connections.
The carvings depict all the major stories of the people connected to Iwitea.
It was during two years spent in Wellington on a Maori history fellowship through the Ministry of Culture and Heritage that she was able to devote herself fully to the manuscript.
As well as stories and songs from her father, Mere used information gleaned from the Alexander Turnbull Library, Maori Land Courts and Iwitea records.
Old photographs from her mother, Teowai Whaanga, also feature in the book, which is available from all major bookstores.
Mere Whaanga has become a household name through the success of her four children’s books, including “Legend of the Seven Whales”, “Tangaroa’s Gift”, “Te Kooti’s Diamond” and “The Treaty”.
She did not ﬁnd the change to historical writing too much of a challenge.
“I had done a lot of university work in the meantime, so the transition to writing an historical manuscript was not a difﬁcult one,” Mere said.
Her next major work is a novel for adults, which is almost completed, called “All My People”.
The book begins in Mohaka and shifts inland over a time spanning from 1922 to 1990.
Photo caption – Mere Whaanga with her book on Iwitea Marae, “A Carved Cloak for Tahu”.