The biography of a waka

Jeff Evans

book cover for Ngātokimatawhaorua
Title Info Sheet Sample Pages

Hard cover


The power of mana waka to inspire a people

This is the biography of the mighty ceremonial waka taua Ngātokimatawhaorua that rests on the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi.

The inspiration for its construction came from Te Puea Hērangi. In the late 1930s the Waikato leader held a dream to build seven waka taua for the 1940 centennial commemorations at Waitangi. By 1937 two waka had been commissioned. Carved in Northland under the guidance of Pita Heperi (Te Tai Tokerau) and Piri Poutapu  (Waikato), Ngātokimatawhaorua was one of them.

But it was to be many decades before the true power of the waka to inspire a people was realised. In 1974 Ngātokimatawhaorua was refurbished by the late Sir Heke-nuku-mai-nga-iwi ‘Hec’ Busby for relaunching during Waitangi Day ceremonies. It was then that Te Puea’s dream turned into reality. By 1990, The Year of the Waka, 22 waka and their 2000 crew gathered at Waitangi.

Ngātokimatawhaorua and others became symbols of Māori unity and pride and an important part of the renaissance of the traditions of carving and voyaging around Aotearoa and beyond.

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‘An in-depth account of this important and little known part of New Zealand history’ — John Daly-Peoples, New Zealand Arts Review



  • CATEGORY: Art, design and architecture, Biography and memoir, History, Te ao Māori
  • ISBN: 9781991151193
  • PUBLISHER: Massey University Press
  • IMPRINT: Massey University Press
  • PUBLISHED: 10/08/2023
  • PAGE EXTENT: 264
  • FORMAT: Hard cover
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Jeff Evans is a writer based in Auckland.