The tale of Tuai: A Maori explorer on planet Pakeha

by Ann Beaglehole / 27 September, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - Maori history

An influential 19th-century Maori traveller’s story is insightful, scholarly and entertaining.

Ngare Raumati chief Tuai was well before his time. He was just 27 or so years old when he died in 1824, but he packed a lot into his short life, including a perilous return voyage to England from his Bay of Islands home.

What he achieved still resonates today. As co-authors Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins write in their superbly illustrated biography Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds, his “multifaceted but always Maori identity is being expressed and developed by young Maori more than 200 years later”.

The book explores Tuai’s engagement with Pakeha as well as his devotion to his people and the dilemmas that came with being a go-between.

Although he moved flexibly within European and Maori societies, he foresaw a risky future and was powerless to prevent it. He sought a relationship of equals with Europeans, only to be refused. This, say the authors, was the tragedy of his life.

Born in 1797, Tuai spent his early years being shaped by the politics of hapu alliances in the Bay of Islands. It was a period of Ngapuhi expansion and Ngare Raumati contraction and also a time when leading chiefs were first acquiring firearms.

The ships that brought the muskets also changed his life.

At the heart of the book is the engrossing story of Tuai and his friend Titere’s 1817 voyage to England on the Kangaroo.

Arriving in Britain after a 10-month voyage would have seemed like landing on another planet.

The book vividly conveys the rigours of the tour, which took them to London (filthy, cold, lively and busy) and Ironbridge Gorge at the height of the Industrial Revolution (stench, heat, noise, beggars, child labourers).

The pair faced more perils on the return trip on the Baring, which was transporting convicts in atrocious conditions.

These journeys had killed other young Maori. Tuai was lucky to survive. He emerged ‘‘profoundly affected by his English experience’’ but ‘‘had retained the essence of himself”.

Tuai, one of the first Maori to become a global traveller, grasped the chance for new knowledge and technologies to forge relationships and find adventure.

He also sought relief from the fighting in the Bay of Islands. He helped build trading contacts between his people and Pakeha and contributed to building European knowledge of Maori.

Co-authors Kuni Kaa Jenkins and Alison Jones: meticulous research.

A fascinating theme in the book is Tuai’s relationship with the missionaries. Maori didn’t want to be ‘‘saved’’ or treated like children. Their resistance to adopting the Pakeha religion is a neglected aspect of the history of colonisation and reflects on Maori commitment to Christianity today.

There are many satisfying portraits, including that of Samuel Marsden, full of “evangelical enthusiasm” and business acumen, and Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika, bent on improving his military strength.

The meticulous research of Jones and Jenkins (Ngati Porou), who are both professors in Maori education, has delivered a work that is insightful, scholarly and entertaining.

It’s a valuable book that gives Tuai the historical attention he deserves, and it sheds a somewhat subversive light on early Maori and Pakeha relations.

Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds, by Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins (Bridget Williams Books, $39.99)

This article was first published in the August 19, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau's scientific quest for a consistent swing
96600 2018-09-20 11:33:10Z Sport

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau's scientific quest for a …

by Paul Thomas

Bryson DeChambeau has put himself in the top spot for the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake with a single-minded drive to simplify the game.

Read more
Housing NZ to reimburse hundreds evicted on flawed meth testing
96594 2018-09-20 10:03:55Z Politics

Housing NZ to reimburse hundreds evicted on flawed…

by Jo Moir

Housing NZ has committed to compensating hundreds of tenants it evicted from state homes based on bogus meth testing, some of whom were made homeless.

Read more
Shortland Street is turning into a metaphor for the Trump White House
96588 2018-09-20 09:27:11Z Television

Shortland Street is turning into a metaphor for th…

by Diana Wichtel

An extra night of Shortland Street won’t change the psycho storylines or the mad characters who act without consequence.

Read more
Why GE grass will be the next divisive issue for the coalition Government
96475 2018-09-20 00:00:00Z Politics

Why GE grass will be the next divisive issue for t…

by Jane Clifton

As the Government gropes all over in reports and reviews for answers, it looks like GE grass may not be one.

Read more
Funny Girls gets serious about suffrage in new comedy special
96571 2018-09-20 00:00:00Z Television

Funny Girls gets serious about suffrage in new com…

by Russell Brown

A comedy special with the Funny Girls sheds light on New Zealand women’s historic winning of the right to vote.

Read more
How to ease symptoms of IBS and endometriosis with the right diet
96373 2018-09-20 00:00:00Z Nutrition

How to ease symptoms of IBS and endometriosis with…

by Jennifer Bowden

Diets low in fodmaps are a saviour for people with irritable bowel syndrome and endometriosis, helping to manage the gastrointestinal symptoms.

Read more
The web browsers’ war on user tracking
96529 2018-09-19 13:01:40Z Tech

The web browsers’ war on user tracking

by Peter Griffin

The reach of tech giants Facebook and Google goes well beyond their own websites to capture your web browsing. So how can you stop them tracking you?

Read more
Emails between Clare Curran and Derek Handley to be revealed
96499 2018-09-19 08:04:02Z Politics

Emails between Clare Curran and Derek Handley to b…

by Gia Garrick

Copies of former minister Clare Curran's personal emails to tech entrepreneur Derek Handley are expected to be released to Parliament this afternoon.

Read more