Tuesday 28 April 2020

Hakopa Te Ata-O-Tu (New Zealand, 1980)

Te Ata-O-Tu was a warrior and chief of the Ngai-Tahu people of South Island in the 19th century. His name means “The War-God’s Shadow”, which you’d take as a nickname if you wanted to put the fear of Whomever into your opponents.

He was captured by Te Rauparaha in revenge for the death of another chief – stories tell that he was spared death becaue Te Rauparaha had seen his bravery in battle and didn’t want to waste such a good fighter. Te Ata-O-Tu and his wife Te Ao Paki were transported to the north to become slaves, but were able to build some status for themselves with the ruling family. He was made a guardian of the sacred places of Ngati-Toa, though this may translate as “scaring off whaling ships that got too close”.

He was liberated when his captors embraced Christianity and returned to his homeland, where he built a reputation as a carver of poumanu (greenstone).


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