Today we acknowledge the 125th book to be celebrated as part of Te Takarangi’s extraordinary journey to highlight 150 Māori non-fiction books. Mataatua Wharenui is the remarkable story of the journey of one of New Zealand’s foremost wharenui, away from the people of Ngāti Awa and Whakatane to exhibitions around the world, before returning home 130 years later.
Mead, H. M., Phillips, T., Harvery, L., & Ngaropo, P. (2017). Mataatua wharenui. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia.
Mataatua wharenui is the most travelled Māori meeting house in the country. Built in 1875, it was taken to Australia, London and Otago before being returned to Whakatāne after more than a century away.
The story of Mataatua is part of the story of the desecration of Ngāti Awa by the Crown and the fight of the people to regain their sovereignty. Following the confiscation of Ngāti Awa land in the 1860s and the devastation to the people of Ngāti Awa, building a wharenui was proposed as a way to reunite Ngāti Awa. The result was Mataatua, a magnificent wharenui, honouring the people, their history and whakapapa, and the skills of the craftspeople, and establishing a living marae.
Shortly after it was opened, the government requested that Mataatua be an exhibit at the Sydney International Exhibition, and from here, it travelled across the globe until ending as an exhibit in Otago Museum. By this time, the government had claimed ownership of Mataatua, and it took more than fifty years of perseverance by Ngāti Awa to have Mataatua returned to Whakatāne to again become a living wharenui in the care of its people.
In words and photographs, the book describes the history and construction of Mataatua, its appropriation, work undertaken by generations to have it returned, and the detail of its rebuild and opening in 2011. The book also provides informative insight into many of the tīpuna depicted in the house along with whakapapa connecting events and people over generations.
This publication is part of the series Te Takarangi: Celebrating Māori publications - a sample list of 150 non-fiction books produced by a partnership between Royal Society Te Apārangi and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.