John Walsh, New Work, 8 April - 21 May 2016
8 APRIL - 21 MAY 2016
Trouble on Mount Toiroa
ARTS by Kristine Walsh
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Reflections from the Wananga at Hinetamatea Marae
21 – 31 Feb 2016
The Tautini story
It is extremely difficult to imagine the society of mid 17th century Aotearoa New Zealand when Maori culture was intact and at its height. Their forebears had pushed out from Asia into the Pacific some three thousand years earlier and had evolved in salty isolation from mainstream humanity, island hopping all the way to Aotearoa – The land of the long white cloud.
It is equally difficult to imagine the unique deafening bird and bush environment that the first people stepped on to in Aotearoa. Maori culture evolved with this bird-bush culture for a thousand years. By the time Europeans arrived, Maoridom was an intricate network of tribal and intertribal whakapapa, blood hierarchy, controlled with a complicated cocktail of religion and superstition that was closer to a bird culture than the universal humanity of today.
During the mid-17th century, Tautini was a major chief of the Anaura Bay-Tokomaru Bay area. His wife was Hinetamatea after whom the house at Anaura Bay is named.
As chief, Tautini had often been presented the flesh of slain enemies: the brain for intellect, the heart for power… but in later years he developed a taste for it and perhaps a taste for longevity, immortality. He was known for eating children. While living at Toiroa Pa above Anaura Bay, he made the fatal error of devouring the child of Tutemangarewa, chief of Wahineiti. Tutemangarewa couldn’t tolerate this practice any more and cut off Tautini’s head.
Tautini’s daughter Te Aotawarirangi smeared herself with blood and went up to Toiroa Pa, retrieved Tautini’s head and took it to her brother Tuterangikatipu who was living at Kawakawa, Te Araroa. Being smeared in blood helped Te Aotawarirangi’s passage through the different iwi between Anaura and Te Araroa. Tuterangikatipu gathered warriors including Ngati Ira, who were living at Tuparoa, and returned to avenge their father, thereby restoring their whakapapa to the land.
A friend recently told the artist of a form of justice practised by an ancient island community off the coast of Scotland. When someone’s offence was considered bad enough, he was bound and lightly weighted so that when in water his feet pointed down and all effort was on staying afloat. A fish was tied to his head and he was set into the ocean close to a gannet colony.
Their prospects were grim. Gannets dive on their prey, often from great heights and can hit the water at 200 miles an hour. Perhaps the gannets would spot the ruse as making that dive would be their end as well.
The tale may be mythical, a metaphor to ponder justice, wealth and power and lawyering blurred lines between right and wrong, our moral compass.