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No. 51 (June 1965)
– 20 –

Ngawaero's Patere
Te Patere a Ngawaero

Mr Mervyn McLean's transcription of the music of this song is published on pages 2527.

Ngawaero's song is a patere. Patere are fast, vigorous chants, accompanied by lively gestures and facial expressions, which were usually composed as a reply to insults. Often, as here, the song takes its audience on an imaginary journey, giving the names of influential people related to the singer.

Only a brief explanation of the song is possible here. For the full story, the reader is referred to Mr Pei Te Hurinui Jones' important book, ‘King Potatau’ pp. 134–146.

‘Te Ao Hou’ is indebted to Mr Jones' account for the information given here. The translation is also based on Mr Jones' translation.

Ngawaero was one of the younger wives of Potatau Te Wherowhero, the first Maori King. Their marriage was the occasion of a very large tribal gathering. Great quantities of food were contributed to the feast, but it was noticeable that one important delicacy was missing. There were no preserved birds (huahua).

Ngawaero's people were noted fowlers and the visiting tribes had looked forward to a feast of huahua. The absence of this food was the subject of comment at the time, and after the visitors had returned to their homes, one of them, a chief named Kukutai, made an insulting remark on the subject.

When news of his remark reached Ngawaero at Ngaruawahia, she was overcome with shame. This was a serious blow to the prestige of herself and her people, and something had to be done about it.

Ngawaero knew that a tribal meeting was to be held at Whatiwhatihoe in some months' time, and she made her plans accordingly. Visiting her relatives at Turata on the northern bank of the Punui river, she told her story and asked them to make a special effort in the bird-snaring season that was about to begin. Word was also sent to her kinsmen in other areas, and all of them laboured throughout the season, snaring great quantities of pigeons, tui and kaka.

As part of the preparations for the meeting at Whatiwhatihoe, Ngawaero's people carved a great waka manu, a dug-out wooden vessel for preserved birds. The vessel had handles at the sides, and was so big that when it was full eight men were needed to carry it.

The poets of Ngawaero's father's hapu (Ngati Paretekawa) were consulted, and with their assistance Ngawaero composed a special patere for the presentation of the huahua at the meeting.

When the great day came, Ngawaero and her party moved slowly forward on to the marae at Whatiwhatihoe. Eight strong men bore on their shoulders the great food vessel, with Ngawaero seated at its front in a specially constructed seat.

As they came forward, the centre of attention of the entire gathering. Ngawaero with shining eyes and proud, eloquent gestures sang this song. After the opening lines, singers and dancers in her party behind her joined in the song.

Te Patere a Ngawaero

E noho ana i te papa tahi o taku koro,
Whakarongo rua aku taringa
Ki te hiha tangi mai o Kukutai!
Me aha koa i te awa whakawhiti ki Puniu,
Te pikitia i te pinakitanga ki Turata, ko Te Arawai!
E kore, au, e Kahu, e aro iho;
He kai tata waiho noa i te huanui.
Nga pikitanga ki Te Matau,
Kia marama ‘hau te titiro auahi,
Kokiri mai ki Mangahana; ko Te Huanui!

 

Ngawaero's Patere

I was sitting in the empty courtyard of my master
When my two ears heard
The biting taunt of Kukutai!
Regardless of the river I crossed to Punui,
Paying no attention to the gentle slope
That leads to Turata, home of Arawai
(No Kahu, I will not turn aside—
There is food to be had by the roadside).
The path goes up to Te Matau,
Where I shall see clearly the column of smoke

 
– 21 –
 

E kore au e peka noa
Kei ngurungurua ‘hau e te tangata.
Me whakarangi-pukohu e au ki Hurakia;
Hei a te Whare, me whakatangi te korowhiti ki Titiraupenga!
Hei a Te Momo, tu ana ‘hau i te pou tu papa o Te Raro!
Kai takiri tu au i te wai o te huariki:
U e, a rara! Te whakama i ahau, e!
Me tohe tangata ki Hauhungaroa, ki Tuaropaki ko Te Kohika!
Ma te tangata e ki mai, ‘Ko wai te wahine e haere nei?’
Maku ano e ki atu, ‘Ko au! Ko Hine i pakia e te ngutu;
E kimi ana i te whare o Te Tuiri.’
Ma Noaia e ki mai;
‘Utaina koia ki te ihu o Te Moata,
Nga uranga kei Te Rapa!’
Tu ana ‘hau i te poutokomanawa o te whare o Te Riu’:
Ko te whare ra, i parua iho ki te muka rawhiti;
Ki te neko, ki te kaitaka, ki te pakipaki;
Kaati ka hoki mai …
E kore au e hoki noa i te tihi mo-runga ki Tokerau:
Me tohe a-wairua ki nga puau o Tongariro,
Ko Te Rangimonehunehu; ko tona tuakana ko Tauteka!
Hei ngari mohoku ki te nohoanga i a Te Whatanui.
Tiatia whaka-ripatia te kai-wharawhara;
Kia pai au te haere i nga tarawaha kai whitiwhiti:
Meremere-Tawera, te whetu takiaho mai o te rangi!
Ko ahau ki raro nei; me hoki ko-muri e au
Ki Motutaiko, ko Te Heuheu!
Kia wetekia te tau o Te Ngako ki au mai ai:
Hei aha ra? Hei ata moku
Mo te wahine hakirara, e!

 

Rising at Mangahana, home of Te Huanui
(But I shall not stop there,
Lest they should murmur and complain about me).
I shall gaze into the hazy distance, to Hurakia.
The home of Te Whare, who will send a shrill signal
To Titiraupenga, telling Te Momo of my coming.
With him I shall stand by the sacred post of Te Raro,
And drink the juice of the berries of the papauma!
So much for my shame!
Let a messenger be sent to Hauhungaroa and Tuaropaki,
To fetch Te Kohika!
Men will ask, ‘Who is this woman travelling about?’
I shall say, ‘It is I, the woman whose story is on many lips,
Seeking the home of Te Tuiri.’
Then Noaia will say, ‘Take her aboard and place her at the bow of Te Moata—
We go to Te Rapa!’
Then I shall stand by the central pillar of the house of Te Riu—
That house which is lined with cloaks of finest eastern fibre,
With neko, kaitaka and pakipaki.
Then my purpose accomplished, I shall return to my home.
I shall not go without pausing on the summit of Tokerau
And sending my spirit forth to the mouth of Tongariro River,
Home of Rangimonehunehu and his senior cousin Tauteka;
They will give me safe-conduct to the dwelling-place of Te Whatanui.
I shall deck my head with the feathers of the albatross,
That I may be splendid in my travels far and wide …
Like Venus shining glorious in the heavens,
Is my splendour here below.
I must go modestly to Motutaiko, to Te Heuheu.
He will untie the cord of the heirloom Te Ngako,
And give it to me to wear.
For what purpose? To show my worth!
I, the woman who was insulted and belittled!

– 22 –

Notes on the Song

These notes do not include all of the references in Ngawaero's song. The people not mentioned here are all men of standing who were related to Ngawaero, while the places which are not listed are mostly famous bird-snaring districts belonging to her people.

Empty Courtyard: That is, after the guests at the marriage feast had gone home.

Kukutai, who had made the insulting remark was a great chief of the lower Waikato.

Regardless of the river: that is, the Waikato River.

Te Arawai: a relative of Ngawaero. Kahu was his wife.

Mangahana: much of the food for the large gatherings at Whatiwhatihoe came from this district. As a consequence, Ngawaero's kinsmen there were very busy at this time, so she did not visit them; it would have been imposing on them to have told her story in the expectation that they might make a contribution.

Te Raro: the most important bird-snaring area at Titiraupenga. It was here that the tribal priestess of the bird cult performed the opening ceremony of the bird-snaring season. Ngawaero had been specially invited by the priestess, Noaia, to be present for this occasion.

Te Rapa: a famous village formerly situated between Tokaanu and Waihi. It was destroyed by the huge landslide of 1846.

Neko, kaitaka, pakipaki: different kinds of fine cloaks.

Tongariro: the river which enters Lake Taupo near Tokaanu.

Te Heuheu: the name of the paramount chiefs of Ngati Tuwharetoa. The chief referred to here is Te Heuheu Tukino II, later killed in the Te Rapa landslide.

Te Ngako: a famous tiki, an heirloom of the family to which Te Heuheu's two wives belonged. It was usually kept at Motutaiko, an island in Lake Taupo; as a gesture of sympathy, they had lent it to Ngawaero for her to wear on this important occasion.