Sunday, 6 January 2013

The Kirihimete Mission (No. 79)

The continuing story of Ahu and Ahuahu her husband in a Maori village in Aotearoa before European settlement of New Zealand. (Missed an episode? Click on Ahu in the labels bar for previous posts.)

Rapata the old pakeha priest ate a meal with Ahuahu, Ahu, Hatiti and their family that evening . As Ahuahu forecast the younger children Rauora and Houhia who were almost twins as they were born on the same day with Ahuahu as their father, were in awe of him but liked the way he looked as he sat comfortably on the floor with them and was interested in their games. When Houhia asked if he would like to see her poi he clapped his hands and nodded his head in appreciation. Houhia looked to Ahu who nodded an agreement and she ran off to fetch the two balls attached to strings to show him. Meanwhile Rapata asked Rauora if he went fishing with his father and what was the biggest fish that he had caught. Rauora held his hands wide apart to indicate how big his fish was and Rapata said “Was it a Mango or a Mako?” Rauora looked across to Ahuahu who nodded at him “It was a Mango,” said Rauora, “but it was still very strong.”

“Yes, I expect it was,” smiled the priest.

With that Houhia returned with her poi and after a nod from Ahu started to sing and swing the balls around and sway in time to her song and directing the balls at the audience and around her body with a rhythmic clicking sound and her eyes looking at her audience especially her father Ahuahu, smiling at him as she swayed in front of them all. 

When the performance was over, Ahu told the children to go and find the older ones as they    needed to talk to Rapata alone. So they both knelt down in front of him and rubbed noses with him and ran out of the room.

“I have told Ahu that you wanted to talk about the ngerengere people in the foothills Rapata. Did you want to talk to all of us together? Ahu and Hatiti go regularly to visit them but there are several other women that go there to take food for them and clothing in winter.”

Rapata nodded and said, “There have been a number of leper colonies set up here most of them are run by the churches and missionaries. You are one of the few that seem to have a commitment to look after your own but we may be able to help by having someone there all the time to care for them, especially when they are too sick to care for each other.” He paused here then went on, “We would like to look after them so they are not alone when they die.”

“Why would you do this Rapata, or will you not be there yourself but others would go there for you?” asked Ahuahu. “Is there not a danger you will get leprosy too?”

“You let Ahu and Hatiti go are you not frightened that they will become lepers too?” he answered.

“I have been there with Ahu, and she merely places food and clothing down for them, talks to them but does not touch them.”

“If I live with them and tend their ailments there is a danger, yes. But I am getting old I must do something more useful with my life to atone for the mistakes I have made in the past.” Rapata said. “If your village council agrees that I should visit the Ngerengere who will come with me so they know that I mean them no harm?” 

“Our village council will decide, but either Ahu or Hatiti will also come with you so it will be another male family member.”

“Is Hatiti your wife too, Ahuahu?”

Ahuahu nodded, “When Hatiti’s husband died, Ahu asked that I look after her too.”

Ahu then spoke up, “Hatiti has a sister, Hinewai. She can speak pakeha talk and has helped Ahuahu speak to the pakeha men that cannot understand us. She calls it whakapakeha.”

“Perhaps I will meet her one day.”

“She comes to see us regularly so you may see her. But she does not like the pakeha, Rapata.”

The following day Ahuahu met with the village council and they agreed for Rapata the pakeha priest could visit the ngerengere. It was approaching mid summer when Rapata, Ahu and Tangaroa visited the leper settlement. Once Ahuahu had made it clear that the pakeha wanted to set up a mission to ensure that food and medical care would be provide for all those that needed it they slowly accepted it would be a help to them if they allowed him into their settlement. They also agreed with the suggestion that Tangaroa should take Rapata there with either Ahu or Hatiti. Eventually Ahu went and as usual called out when they got there. A group of Ngerengere came up to them. After a lengthy discussion explaining that the pakeha man wanted to help them they allowed him to enter while Ahu and Tangaroa occupied their time close by but would not enter the settlement.

Rapata examined some of the ngerengere himself and checked their fingers and toes and examined their faces closely by sight alone talking all the time to them. As he did this he took notes including the numbers that lived there; the extent of their disease, the living accommodation they had, their water supply and even their vegetable plot which they tended. He then returned to Ahu and Tangaroa who had merely waited outside the main encampment which they dared not enter. Ahu had gone into the forested area a little way away to search for plants and herbs while Tangaroa fidgeted about throwing stones into the creek that ran a little way away from the settlement.

“I would like to build a hut for the ngerengere to use as a hospital. Where could we get the best timber Tangaroa? “

“There is plenty of timber here” he replied pointing to the wooded area where Ahu had been. “But for big timber, the village where the kaka calls the other side of that hill has some very fine trees.” Tangaroa pointed to the south west, “Hinewai, Hatiti’s sister lives there.”

Rapata nodded. “Now I must get approval from your village council and the church authorities at Big River to proceed then. We could call it the Kirihimete mission” he said with a smile as he wiped his brow. “As it is that time of the year.”

Kirihimete – Christmas
Whakapakeha – Translate into English or Pakeha talk


  1. I like the contrast between young and old in this we can pass on good things..maybe even different ways..that must indeed be the essence of Christmas..glad you posted! Jae

  2. Even his just going in and coming back out has me nervous. I would hat to see Ahu or Tangaroa come down with it.