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Nolan Raihania – Tangihanga without a tūpāpaku

Nolan Raihania recounts the experience of being at a tangi for a soldier who died in the Second World War, but whose body could not be returned so remained on foreign soil.


One soldier, the first one belonging to Te Muriwai, was Pera Kemp. It was a really sad tangihanga because there was no body on the marae to be wept over. When you went there, you just saw the photographs, the photographs of the female elders, of the male elders, and indeed of that soldier, all there.

And at that time, it was impossible to return the bodies home because there was no air travel in those times. It was too far to return the bodies by ship.

The way they conducted the tangi for those soldiers who had died was to conduct them as if the soldier were lying there on the marae. We had no prior experience of this kind of thing. The funeral rituals would go for three or four days – even five. What a strange thing that was.

No doubt, this is how it was done all over the country. That was how the home people felt, for sure.