Te Hapuku Te Ikanui o te Moana.
Ngãti Te Whatuiapiti
It was apparent to me, almost as soon as I cast my eyes on a photo of Te Hapuku, that this man had immense mana. And although my learnings of him conjured some elements of discretion, there was never any doubt about my respect.
Te Hapuku was born in the late eighteenth century. He was a leader of Ngãti Te Whatu-i-apiti. Kinship links within Ngãti Kahungunu, Rangitãne, Ngãti Ira and other major tribal groups in Hawke’s Bay made him extremely influential throughout the region.
Land matters plagued Te Hapuku throughout his life and he was a controversial figure with Mãori and Pãkehã alike, but other activities were more productive. He ran sheep at Poukawa. He became involved in efforts by Hawke’s Bay leaders to improve the standard of education offered to their people, particularly with regard to Te Aute College. And In 1876 Te Hapuku, in response to an ancient prophecy, was responsible for the house Kahuranaki to be built at Te Hauke.
Te Hapuku died on 23 May 1878 at Te Hauke. As he lay dying, he asked to be placed so that his eyes should close watching the sacred Kahuranaki hill. This request helped me understand a great deal about how Mãori respect their land. I likened it to the small plots in the cemeteries where my own ancestors are buried. I thought of how sacred those small pieces of land are and how it would affect me if they were desecrated. I remember the Wellington motorway being built and the controversy it caused when it was realised it was cutting through the cemetery. Then I thought again of Te Hapuku and his dying wish. And I realised, that we should respect our whole landscape with the same passion we have for the small plots of land where our own ancestors rest.
media: Acrylic on Canvas
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