A Carved Cloak for Tahu

Mere Whaanga

‘The written account is visually enriched through photographs and maps. Connection to the past is evoked through the verses of waiata included to support the historical accounts. This is an accessible, readable piece of scholarly work uncluttered by academic speak or dense critical analysis.’
– Ngaire Rewarewa Wilson, New Zealand Journal of History

Starting with the building of Te Poho o Potiki, the central wharenui at Iwitea of Ngāi Tahu Matawhāiti, a hapū of Ngāti Kahungunu, A Carved Cloak for Tahu explores its taonga, the iwi and hapū identities represented in its waiata, stories and carvings, its colonial history including experience with the Native Land Court and the religions to which the people have adhered, particularly Te Kohititanga Marama. Whaanga also investigates issues of cultural identity and contemporary pressures, giving an overview of the industries in which hapū labour has worked (flax mills, farming, freezing works) and examining the exercise of hapū affiliations. She describes the strengthening of cultural identity that occurs when people gather to discuss concerns such as environmental and resource management and the impact of new industry on their area (e.g. proposals to drill for gas). Though focused on a small area in northern Hawke's Bay, this story has relevance for many other iwi and will have wide appeal.


Mere Whaanga (Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungungu) lives in Napier. She is a writer, illustrator, historian and academic who may be best known as the author of several extremely successful children's books that have been finalists in book awards, notably The Legend of the Seven Whales, Te Pakiwaitara ō Ngā Tahora Tokowhitu (1988) and Tangaroa's Gift: Te Koha āTangaroa (1990). She has an MPhil in Māori Studies from Massey University and was awarded the 2001–02 Ministry for Culture and Heritage Fellowship in Māori History to complete A Carved Cloak for Tahu.

Finalist, Montana New Zealand Book Award, History Category, 2005.


June 2004, 230 x 170 mm, 280 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 9781869403225