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The meaning of the waiata E Te Hokowhitu a Tū

Tauira Takurua and John Coleman talk about Tuini’s waiata, first performed to pay tribute to Lieutenant Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu VC.


Those songs 'E Te Hokowhitu ā-Tū' and 'Te Ope Tuatahi' were songs composed by that kuia for the hui awarding the VC to Te Moana-nui-a Kiwa Ngārimu in Ruatōrea after that battle was fought. At that hui, the group known as Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū from here performed those songs.

It is a song urging the Māori Battalion to great heights of bravery, but at the same time urging them to survive the battles and come home. “Be brave Te Hokowhitu, but stop dying in such numbers.”

A part of the song is about him, about Ngārimu, “Ngārimu alas, here are your mokopuna”, but at that time, the words ran ‘ō hoa’, because that generation were all his best friends.

“Spilling forth” says another line. This is about their tears of grief, which they shed for Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngārimu at that time.

Nowadays, these songs continue to be sung, because of the great feats of Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū. We continue to learn about, and discuss, waiata associated with the Battalion. We also continue to teach the waiata to our children and grandchildren to ensure the waiata are never lost.