He Reo Wahine, by Dr Lachy Paterson and Dr Angela Wanhalla, explores the issues that surrounded and directed Māori women’s lives during the 19th century. The authors are researchers who focus largely on colonial New Zealand and the social, political and cultural aspects of the people present at that time (19th century).
He Reo Wahine is a compendium of letters, court documents and notes that allow us a glimpse into some of the real issues that plagued Aotearoa such as the raids of Te Rauparaha to the invasion of Parihaka. We are able to delve into history itself and see from a first-person view the impact war had on these women and their families.
One wahine talks about the slaying of people in Ngāi Tahu by Ngāti Toa Rangatira leader and composer of the world-famous haka ‘Ka Mate’, Te Rauparaha. The loss suffered by the people of Ngāi Tahu is still remembered by the descendants of those slain.
Through the wāhine Māori voices inked into these pages, we begin to comprehend the deep connection these women felt about the land and new laws that prevented many Māori from keeping them. It is apparent throughout the book that these women were not so reluctant to stand proud and articulate their thoughts where land or court was concerned. Some of these women were successful in re-gaining their lands and others, not so.
The stories that make up the book are woven together delicately so as to allow these women’s voices to come through clearly. The authors have been careful not to assert their own perspectives as they strip back or reflect on different texts, leaving room for further discussion. While some pieces are wholly written in Māori and some are not, all have the power to stir emotions, some angry and some down-right sad.
For a young Māori woman, this book can prove to be mana enhancing in a way that defeats the long-standing assumption that Māori women were uneducated and not respected. A powerful and heart-gripping book that affirms the mana of the wāhine in the 19th century and preserves the mauri or essence of their words – he reo wahine.
On Saturday 20 October, 3pm at the MTG Napier, Patterson and Wanhalla join Barbara Brookes (A History of New Zealand Women) in a Readers and Writers session of the Harcourts Hawkes Bay Arts Festival. The Shrieking Sisterhood: women’s voices from the past, chaired by Tryphena Cracknell, will discuss the diverse ways in which New Zealand women argued for rights.
Posted by Ali
Catalogue link: He Reo Wahine