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Songs of Invitation and Challenge Sung by the Descendants of Rongomai-wahine

Songs of Invitation and Challenge Sung by the Descendants of Rongomai-wahine

Some fifty years ago, about the year 1894, a move to strengthen their Church was made by leading Church of England Maoris throughout the North Island. Inspirational rallies were held in many centres, and many churches and meeting houses were erected as the result of this movement.

To create enthusiasm among the people, each tribe divided themselves into groups. Each group chose its strongest ancestor or ancestress to be its mana, and designed and made a flag with the name of the ancestor or ancestress worked upon it. At the page 90commencement of meetings each group marched into the marae or courtyard, led by the standard-bearer carrying the flag.

At gatherings such as this the Maori people love to discuss their tribal beginnings and the outstanding details of their history. Nor are any apologies made as the weaknesses and failures of other tribes are brought to light. The remarks are challenging in the extreme, and are accompanied by wit, physical and facial gestures, and every other artifice of the orator. Feelings are not spared as each tribe endeavours to assert its superiority over the others. What to the pakeha would be mortal insult and a sufficient basis for slander, is to the Maori all part of the game. The pakeha tries to hide his unhappy past, but the Maori has no chance of forgetting his.

The Mahia group of the Ngati Kahungunu tribe naturally selected Rongomai-wahine as their mana and designed their flag accordingly. Eraihia Maru, leader of the Mahia group, composed the following songs on information supplied by Paora Tunge and several elders of the Wairoa district. Eraihia and his people attended every meeting and sung the songs, and such was the superior position of the Mahia people that the facts therein were never contradicted but received general approval. When flown, the flag of Rongomai was placed at the top of the pole above all other flags. Pakehas, reading the translation, must realise the impossibility of presenting an exact translation. Nor do we explain the allusions. They will be fully understood by Maori readers.