Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 50 (March 1965)
– 55 –


The Map Drawn by Tuki Tahua in 1793
Mangonui, 1964

Those who had the privilege of knowing the late Dr Milligan, remember him as a man of sharp-edged mind, great humanity, and endless critical curiosity. His unpretentiously titled posthumous monograph reveals all these qualities together with his own astringent wit, the quality which, above all, made those who knew him sharply aware that there was more than one way of looking at the matter under discussion.

This is what ‘The Map Drawn by Tuki Tahua’ is, another way of looking at an unsolvable puzzle; a door which cannot be unlocked because its maker never gave away the key. Dr Milligan's analysis is a long look through the keyhole, and a fitting of different keys, none of which works, but any of which may suggest something to the next key maker.

In 1793 Governor King asked the captain of the ‘Daedalus’ to bring two New Zealanders to Norfolk Island to teach the convicts there how to make rope from flax. It was not a kindly century. The captain sailed into Doubtless Bay (Northland) and invited the two chiefs aboard. While they were engaged with the wonderful and fascinating world below decks he set sail for Norfolk. The two men, Huru and Tuki, came on deck in time to see their land dropping out of sight.

At Norfolk the two chiefs were soon able to teach all they knew of rope making. Flax dressing was, for the most part, women's work, and no part of the duties of a young nobleman.

King now showed his own humanity. Ashamed of the way in which the two chiefs had been kidnapped, he entertained them as his guests, questioning them about their country and the ways of the Maori people.

It was in the course of these discussions that the idea of drawing a map must have occurred to Tuki. A room was set aside. Tuki drew on the floor with chalk and later made a copy on

Picture icon

The late Dr R. R. D. Milligan.

paper. King and his secretary Chapman, sat round the table with the two chiefs while, in a mixture of Maori and English, they named and explained the places on the map. Slowly the signs and notes grew. Not everything could be explained, and King was aware that he was receiving only a shadow of Tuki's knowledge.

If you look at the map and compare it with a modern map of New Zealand, you will find it very different. Mountains and harbours disappear, the shape is strange, names are not where they appear on official maps. Tuki is not drawing a map that a sailor or explorer might use, though it would do for the purpose, he is telling King about the places important to him; his tribe, its enemies and friends, and perhaps something of the beliefs of his people. Wherever he could, King has had Huru and Tuki's explanations written down, but there remain a number of unexplained signs. King has not noted them on the map though there may be some jottings among his papers which would help to explain them.

Dr Milligan explains the geographical map and clears up most of the difficulties. Tuki drew the parts of the map which he knew best clearly and boldly. ‘Here are the Three Kings,’ he says, ‘this is Oruru, my home, and Whangaroa, the home of Huru; here is the Hokianga; these are the chiefs whose pa are important in each district.’ To the southward

– 56 –

the information grows vague. The Bay of Islands is an inlet, Waitemata, Kaipara and Hauraki disappear altogether, the South Island contains a few clear signs, that is all.

Are we to suppose that Huru and Tuki didn't know what they were talking about? This is too easy. Clearly the two chiefs are accurate in the areas that they know at first hand, and fall back on the tales of their more travelled elders when their knowledge runs out. Consider what kind of map most untravelled New Zealanders would draw of London! Even so there are some surprises. Te Reinga is not at the north end of Te Werahi beach as is shown on the official maps, but at Hooper's Point. Dr Milligan points out that Aupouri elders say that this is a mistake. Who is right? At first sight Tuki, so much better acquainted with traditional lore, seems dependable, but, on the other hand, d'Urville, who located Te Reinga at its present position and from whom official place names seem to be taken, was very careful in this respect. Nonetheless Huru was present to check Tuki's work. Is there another solution?

A re-orientation of the chart, (pointed out to me by Mr D. S. Walsh) so that Tuki's south

west point corresponds with Cape Maria, places Te Reinga at its ‘proper’ place and explains one other feature that Milligan found puzzling, a knob-shaped form between the two capes which can be accounted for by one of two prominent features, Herangi, (700ft.) about half a mile inland, or Te Kohatu, on the beach. This does not disturb the other identification.

The second, and more puzzling feature of Tuki's map, is the set of symbols which can be called, for want of better names, ‘houses’ and ‘trees’. Dr Milligan is certain that these are not mere doodles or decoration.

Tuki was unable to make his message clear to King, nor is it any clearer now. Dr Milligan suggests several solutions none of which leads to finality. The ‘trees’ and the ‘houses’ he thinks have genealogical significance. They are coded information and may have meaning at several levels. He is, I think, correct in looking for a way of relating them to whakapapa though the means at his disposal were too slender for him to do more than suggest some profitable lines of investigation.

Finally, we must ask, what made this failing old man devote the last years of his life to Tuki's map? The reasons are many, not the least were personal, they were in the nature of the man. These do not concern us. But there were others, good scholarly reasons, of which Maoris seem sometimes to be rather suspicious.

Tuki's map is New Zealand's first literary document. It is the focus for some of the traditional history and lore of the Ngati Kahu people. Its meanings, like those of other ancient literature, are hard but not impossible to discover. Fittingly, it is the work of a Maori.

Dr Milligan regarded it, therefore, as of prime significance to all New Zealanders to understand if possible what Tuki had to say, and as a matter of urgency. The stock of Ngati Kahu lore was, he knew, diminishing year by year. It took a long time to gain the confidence of the Ngati Kahu kaumatua and it is a measure of Dr Milligan's tenacity that he did so in spite of his own physical infirmity.

This book therefore, is more than a scholarly account, it is a documenting of part of Maori tradition and of a contact between four men of equal rangatiratanga: King, Huru, Tuki—and R. R. D. Milligan.

My response to a reading of this book, is to wish that there had been more such contacts, and that the present kaumatua will copy their ancestors, and preserve in writing their

– 57 –

own knowledge. It is only by this means that an authentic Maori consciousness can develop and survive in the sick world of pop culture. In whatever Reinga he is now inhabiting, R.R.D. Millingan would rest easier if he knew that his book had started at least one Maori off on that inquiry into the nature of the soil in which he grows that is the necessary first stage in the development of civilization as opposed to mere comfort. This, I think, a reading of ‘The Map Drawn by Tuki Tahua’ must surely do.

Maori Myths and Tribal Legends
retold by Antony Alpers and illustrated by
Patrick Hanly

This is an excellent, authentic modern rendering of the Maori myths which is well worth adding to the bookshelf at home or at school. Sir George Grey would approve of this new edition of the ancient tales. It is written in modern English with an easy flowing style. The re-arrangement of the episodes into chronological sequence gives a continuity and completeness that contrasts with the disjointed ‘flashback’ technique of the original translations in ‘Polynesian Mythology’. Children will read it with enjoyment; adults will want to read it to their children, and, without doubt, for their own pleasure.

Many of the details that Sir George Grey omitted in his translations have been skilfully woven into the new tellings. There are other additions by Mr Alpers which do not fit so snugly into the Maori stories. There seems to be no need to import from another country the belief that Maui lost his maro as he lifted Te Ika from the bed of the sea. The significance of this is probably quite different in the two countries. In New Zealand working naked in the company of men was normal, natural and, so, insignificant.

The omissions of Grey, though, which Mr Alpers has striven to reinsert into the stories he has handled like the tohunga tauira he hopes to emulate. These passages were omitted because they would have offended the readers of those times. In the greater freedom of the present day it is more common to read and hear about acts and subjects which once were taboo. But usually we find, in the excess which comes with new liberties, an overstressing, a disproportionate emphasising of these subjects. Mr Alpers is to be congratulated on the way he weaves reference to cohabitation and acts of elimination into these stories to give them a naturalness in the telling which reflects the early casualness and lack of embarrassment with which the Maori refers to these things.

Only here and there does the modern style and idiom go too far. ‘Heavens!’ seems an incongruous exclamation for a mythical Maori to make, especially when the original is ‘E tama!’ an almost universal exclamation. The text has its sprinkling of Maori terms. ‘Hokowhitu’ is translated in half a dozen ways but Mr Alpers neglects the obvious ‘seven score’.

Names like Hine-nui-te-po and Ruru-mahara can be translated and perhaps should be. The difficulty is in deciding which to leave untranslated. I think Mr Alpers stretches Maori grammar and phraseology a little far in deriving some of his translations. However, many people play this game—and one guess is as good as another.

These, though, are minor points and detract little from the overall excellence of the text.

There are three important parts in this book. First, of course, the myths, and legends of the canoes. All New Zealanders should read, or have read to them, this easy flowing narrative. The second important part is the preface, a valuable short essay on the value of myth to all peoples of all times. Thirdly, the appendix gives the sources and background of this collection, something of the history of the publication of the myths, some arguments on validity, and poses some pertinent questions whose answers are still locked in manuscripts all over the country.

There is one major defect of this book—the illustrations. In the preface and appendix Mr Alpers makes clear that the Maori, like most other peoples, had a body of myth which explained for them the world they lived in. The myths give an orderly and concise explanation of the apparent disorder of the world. Maori carvings, which depict many of the legends, have symmetry and clearly defined shapes. Tukutuku, tuhi and taniko are neat and precise. Do vague asymmetrical figures, blotchy lines and clumsy imitations of spirals and haching ‘capture the spirit of the myths’? Do puerile bird and fish shapes emphasise the beauty of the birds Maui branded, and the

– 58 –

bounty of the sea of Tangaroa? And who would want to claim descent from one of the inkblots on page 168?

Clear-cut, well-defined explanations for natural phenomena demand clear-cut, well-defined illustrations.

Is the distorted spiral on page 69 to represent the ‘threshold of life and death’? One presumes so, from the text. Yet there are many ‘vagina dentatus’ in carvings easily accessible for Mr Hanly to copy. The vital part of Hine-nui-te-po had symmetry and power to the Maori mind. This illustration has neither.

The use of an art form symptomatic of the unsure, uncertain modern world to illustrate the fully explained orderliness of the Maori mytholigical world is a mistake.

Mr Alpers has worked valiantly to give these myths the immortality they deserve, but, like Maui, he has chosen the wrong travelling companion. Mr Hanly is your tiwaiwaka, Mr Alpers.

Washday at the Pa

From cover to cover the reader is constantly aware of the fine photography of Ans Westra. She has artistically portrayed her subjects. However, one wonders if the author really understands the background of Maori life, necessary for sympathetic and understanding treatment of such subjects.

The author has not taken into account the fact that many Maoris still cling to some of the old customs. For example, a child is shown standing on the stove—this is almost a violation of the law of tapu.

Presumably this revised version is now intended more for adults' reading than for children's education. If this is so, then the partly revised text in this edition is not really suitable for adult readers.

In the publisher's note accompanying this new edition, it is said that in the controversy caused by its original publication, ‘several factors caused the discussion to be confused’. One of these factors, the note says, is that some readers experienced ‘a difficulty in separating artistic truth (photography employed as art) from objective fact’.

‘Washday at the Pa’ was published in the first place as a primary school bulletin for standards two to five. Children of this age-group do not usually note the artistic value of photography. They accept what they see and read as the truth.

The publisher's note explains that the word ‘pa’ is loosely applied nowadays. However the title ‘Washday at the Pa’ still seems to be a misnomer, for only one house appears in the text and photographs.

From an artistic point of view one cannot fault Ans Westra's fine photography, but the accompanying text needs reconsideration in many of its aspects. Miss Westra must decide for whom her book is intended: for adults, or for children.

this april 28 members of the Rotorua Maori Golfers' Association are to tour eastern Australia.

mr d. n. perry of opotiki, an adviser to the New Zealand Maori Council, recently became moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. At the induction ceremony Mr John Waititi, representing the Maori people, paid tribute to Mr Perry's many years of work for the Maori people by placing upon his shoulders a korowai cloak. This was in the place of the usual academic robe.

The cloak was lent for the occasion by the Governor-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson.

the uptown gallery in auckland recently held successful one-man exhibitions of the work of the Maori artists Para Matchitt and Selwyn Muru, and also of a Cook Islands artist, Paul Tangata, and a Samoan painter, Mrs Teuane Tibbo.

Paul Tangata, an honours student at Elam School of Art, paints freely-interpreted tree and flower forms which reflect his memories of the tropical landscape of his home. Mrs Teuane Tibbo, who is aged 70, began painting only last year. Her paintings of the remembered landscapes of her youth have an innocence and directness of vision and a strong natural sense of design.

Articles on the work of Selwyn Muru and Para Matchitt appeared in recent issues of Te Ao Hou; two of the illustrations in this issue (pages 13 and 15) are by Para Matchitt, whose strongly individual work re-interprets the classical Maori forms.