Paratene te manu. Ngãti Wai
There is something inherently peaceful in the eyes of Paratene Te Manu. They tell the story of great achievements, bloody battles and intrepid journeys. And of all the Rangatira that are represented in my work, I feel I know Paratene Te Manu the best.
He was born in the early nineteenth century and was the son of Kau Te Awha, a Rangitira of Ngãtiwai. Paratene Te Manu was a resounding leader of Ngãtiwai, and his links to Ngãpuhi saw him fight with distinction alongside Hongi Hika in the musket wars of the 1820s and then, following his conversion in the mid 1830's, lived as an exemplary Christian gentleman thereafter.
He is perhaps best remembered for his journey to England in 1863 where he kept company with Queen Victoria, amongst other distinguished members of high society. And although the journey was thwarted with controversy, and some of the touring party were lured to the seedy side of London, Paratene Te Manu remained true to his proud demeanour and was an exemplary example amongst his peers.
Paratene Te Manu recognised the challenges ahead for his people and understood the necessity to adopt the education system of England and, as a result, gifted land for a school to be built in his kainga (home settlement) of Ngunguru upon his return. He took great interest in the education of both Mãori and Pãkehã children, and was often seen in the classroom helping and admiring the growth of the childrens’ knowledge.
Late in 2014 I had the immense pleasure of meeting some children of the school that is still in operation today, when I meet with his descendants and hau kainga (home people of that place) of Ngunguru Marae in their Wharenui (meeting house) also named Paratene Te Manu, in honour of their tupuna.
media: Acrylic on canvas
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