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No. 71 (1973)
– 51 –

Historic Tapa
Returned to Niue

November 23 1971 was a great day for Niue, with opening by Mrs Hanan of the Niue International (Hanan) Airport. After the formalities and feasting, the then Minister of Island Affairs, the Hon. D. MacIntyre, presented to the Hon. Leader of Government Business. Mr R. R. Rex, one of the oldest ‘hiapo’ (or Niuean Tapa) known to be of truly Niuean origin.

Making the presentation, Mr MacIntyre said, ‘This Niue hiapo was presented to the Rev. George Lawes in the 1860s. He and his brother Frank, the first European missionaries in Niue, are still some of the best remembered missionaries. The hiapo came into the possession of the Nicholls family, one of whom lived at Avatele. For many years, it has been with a family at Port Chalmers, near Dunedin, and it was recently purchased from them by an American working at Otago University. When he showed it to Dr Duff, Director of Canterbury Museum, it was immediately recognised as a great treasure of Polynesia, and was purchased for the Museum.

‘When the airport opening was arranged. I tried to think of something especially suitable to bring as a present to the people of Niue. Mr McEwen enquired of all the museums in New Zealand, and Dr Duff realised that this hiapo was probably the finest piece of Niuean art in New Zealand, and he decided that it was something that should come back to Niue. So today I have brought it back where it belongs. I hope it will inspire the women to teach their daughters how to make this real Niuean hiapo, with your own beautiful designs.’

Mr MacIntyre asked that the hiapo be hung on the wall of Niue's Assembly Room until a proper museum was established.

Tamaki Makau Rau

Because the soil
was lava rich
and succulent
seafood
made each bay
a paradise,
they called
this strip
of fern swept land
Tamaki makau rau,
‘Tamaki sought for
by a hundred lovers.’
Naming it more truly
than they knew.

They lived there,
fought great battles
for the narrow land
that lay between
the fierce Ngapuhi
in the north
and those
more peaceful
southern tribes.
The white man came.
a greedy lover trading blankets
and tobacco
for a lover's rights.

So the people
of the isthmus
multiplied
and thousands
built their homes
beside the bays
along the ridges,
loving the land
as ardently
as Kiwi Tamaki.
Tuperiri
and the other
mighty warriors
of the past.

Kathleen Grattan

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