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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

The Adventures of Tupaia by Courtney Sina Meredith

This stunning book tells the incredible story of Tupaia, a Tahitian priest navigator who sailed onboard the Endeavour with Captain Cool on his first voyage to Aotearoa. Follow Tupaia as he grows up on Ra'iātea, becoming a high-ranking 'arioi and master navigator. The story then documents him meeting up with Cook in Tahiti and sailing as part of the crew on the Endeavour across the Pacific to Aotearoa. The encounters between tangata whenua and the crew as the ship sails around Aotearoa is also documented, as is Tupaia's important role as translator and cultural interpreter.

The book was published in partnership with Auckland Museum to accompany its exhibition, Voyage to Aotearoa: Tupaia and the Endeavour.

It is a breathtakingly beautiful book. Author Courtney Sina Meredith tells Tupaia's story in dramatic prose.

Sina Meredith does not shy away from the realities of Endeavour's visit, or its lasting impact, to Aotearoa. The book includes snapshots from the areas the Endeavour anchored at or visited, including the way Cook re-named these spots and what happened when the crew arrived. Through it all though, the importance of Tupaia and his courage and humanity shines through.

The book's impressive content is matched by its physical size. This is a big book, with a wonderful hardcover and thick pages. It will last generations. A simple glossary of Tathitian words is also included within the book.

It is also a work of art, stunningly illustrated by Mat Tait. His bold graphic style illustrations make it instantly appealing. Using an almost muted colour palette, Tait somehow manages to make the illustrations both simple and incredibly detailed at the same time. Tāumi, tapa and tātau, alongside many other Pasifika art, and flora, is documented beautifully. Intricate vaka and ships float across pages, as maps unfurl.

This is the first book written about Tupaia for young people, and it could not come soon enough. However, don't let the idea of a picture book put you off. The history contained within its pages is knowledge all of us should have.

Tupaia's story puts Pacific knowledge to its rightful place, the front - the 'discovery' of Aotearoa is no longer one that need be dominated by Cook. Tupaia's vast and impressive knowledge is valued and honoured. The book goes a small way towards reclaiming history.

The Adventures of Tupaia is essential reading for any Kiwi.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Allen & Unwin and Auckland War Memorial Museum, RRP $35.


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