He Pukapuka Tātaku i ngā Mahi a Te Rauparaha Nui / A Record of the Life of the Great Te Rauparaha
Tamihana Te Rauparaha
Translated and edited by Ross Calman
Te Rauparaha is most well known today as the composer of the haka ‘Ka mate’, made famous the world over by the All Blacks.
A major figure in nineteenth-century history, Te Rauparaha was responsible for rearranging the tribal landscape of a large part of the country after leading his tribe Ngāti Toa to migrate to Kapiti Island. He is venerated by his own descendants but reviled with equal passion by the descendants of those tribes who were on the receiving end of his military campaigns in the musket-war era.
He Pukapuka Tātaku i ngā Mahi a Te Rauparaha Nui is a 50,000-word account in te reo Māori of Te Rauparaha’s life, written by his son Tamihana Te Rauparaha between 1866 and 1869.
A pioneering work of Māori biography, Tamihana’s narrative weaves together the oral accounts of his father and other kaumātua to produce an extraordinary record of Te Rauparaha and his rapidly changing world.
However, as Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira chair Te Taku Parai notes in his introduction to this edition, few people over the years have ever read Tamihana's account of his father's life.
Instead those that have read it had to make do with poor interpretations of the text, all of which "have fallen well short of doing justice to the original work".
Finally Tamihana's work has been published in its entirety - in both Māori and English - allowing this important manuscript to be available to all.
This is, as Parai notes, particularly important for future generations of Ngāti Toa and they seek to revitalise their reo.
Tamihana's work is edited and translated by Ross Calman, a descendant of Te Rauparaha. His note about how he discovered the manuscript sent shivers down my spine.
This is the first time Tamihana's manuscript has been published in a bilingual edition. The English translation is entirely new, while Tamihana's Māori text has been refreshed to reflect modern conventions of spelling and grammar.
Calman includes an extensive overview, offering insights into Te Rauparaha as well as his process for translating the text.
Flipping open the book at a random page had me terrified - the layout looked confusing. But fear not. Start from the first page and it quickly makes sense. In fact, I can't imagine the book being laid out differently now. Both texts are side by side on a double spread. This is brilliant for anyone learning te reo Māori.
Photographs and maps, extensive references, an index, whakapapa, and timeline all add to the reader's understanding.
This is a book of immense importance, not only because of the history and knowledge it contains, but because of the aroha that went into it. It is, quite simply, a taonga.
Reviewed by: Rebekah Lyell
Auckland University Press, RRP $59.99