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Tears of Rangi by Anne Salmond


This is a very ambitious book written by a serious scholar of New Zealand Maori Studies. For many readers it may open up doors to understanding the Maori world and for others it may be perplexing. This is a comparative investigation attempting to clarify aspects of two different cultures as they move through two centuries of contact. Written in two parts the book first carefully outlines the history of contact between tangatawhenua (people inhabiting the land) and incoming missionaries, sailors and settlers with a pre-European viewpoint. Examples given are clear and easily comprehended as the groups misunderstand each other. The second part looks towards modern times as views change and develop with hope for a new kind of resolution which incorporates Maori beliefs in the ecological future of the nation. Maori spiritual beliefs are strongly outlined since these beliefs influence every thought and action for the Maori. These beliefs are less easily understood by Pakeha.

In late September 2017 a television documentary series will be produced (Artefacts by Greenstone pictures) where Jane Reeves could bring clearer understanding to readers who may have difficulty in comprehending or accepting the concepts Salmond presents.


Salmond gives easily recognisable examples of different attitudes and approaches to cultural views of the world – worlds with vastly different perceptions. Nuances of cultural beliefs have been a source of misunderstanding throughout history. Talking past each other is not new. Deep-seated assumptions are brought face to face. These invisible forms of order which are common sense to one or tikanga (traditional values) to another can mean confrontation and conflict as differing cultures collide.

The Tears of Rangi carries a message to the thinking citizen. Have a fresh look at New Zealand society from another angle. Salmond puts forward a complete debate.

Self and identity (whakapapa and genealogy) are a basic awareness which is eventually understood by everyone. We have absorbed many Maori concepts into our every-day life.


At the beginning of contact Maori thinkers vigorously tested and disputed the new forms of order and ideas which were introduced. Maori beliefs of whanaungatanga (kinship) and living networks of extended families which gave attachment to land through marriage or kinship were challenged. Conflicting ideas still present problems of understanding. The ethical arguments still exist today. The growing ease with Maori terms (mana, tapu, whanau) the adoption of the Haka, acceptance of Moko (tattoo) have become everyday aspects of life in contemporary New Zealand but the depth of the value within their use is not always apparent as these are only surface changes. The relationship between Pakeha and Maori culture is not really fully understood by either group in the past or even today.


One’s culture is inherent- a view of the world developed as each individual grows older. Rarely do we judge our own life style against those of others.

Salmond has carefully researched facts over more than a century balancing Maori cultural beliefs and practices beside those of the incoming missionaries, sailors and settlers gradually bringing us into the 21st century. Through these turbulent periods she carefully examines the contact where attitudes have melded, hardened and sometimes changed. The author’s formidable arguments for both Maori and European viewpoints make interesting reading and clarify many points of difference.

The analysis of our two cultures in a confrontational questioning would make valuable reading for a citizen of yet a third culture (Asian, South African?) who wishes to better comprehend today’s Maori and Pakeha New Zealand.


The second part of this book presents present day debates with water, foreshore and sea bed disputes and outlines the difference in viewpoints. Some will have difficulty comprehending the Maori spiritual involvement. The perception from each culture is not yet reconciled but Salmond suggests that there is a growing trend for Maori beliefs to be absorbed into the psyche of the younger generations and that this will become a strong developing strand. It has become more acceptable for the belief that all living things hold Mauri (a life force precious to itself) and that this belief has a place in our environment. The Waitangi Tribunal gave the Whanganui River its own Mauri…” I am the river and the river is me” … as a living being. What Marsden dismissed as simple superstition is no longer valid. The world is slowly changing. This significant book has the ability to influence hope for a united future as two peoples reconcile their different views. Modern New Zealand can be transformed by greater understanding of the Maori world.


Are you going to eat the richness of the oyster which could bring the good fortunes of a pearl: or are you going to be the person who never listened to how the shell should be opened?”


REVIEWER: Sonia Edward

TITLE: Tears of Rangi

AUTHOR(S): Anne Salmond

PUBLISHER: Auckland University Press

RRP: $65.00

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