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Posted by Fat Face 21:05 Comments (0)

Kiwiana: Maori Lesson!

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[This blog post is very late, but once you start something you have to finish it. So as one of the last posts in our Kiwiana series, may I present to you - a gazillion days too late - our Maori Lesson feature!]

Reo - Maori language

In our last blog post, we were introducing you to common Kiwi expressions, but with such a strong heritage of the South Pacific, we felt we also had to introduce you to some basic Maori. The language is making a big come-back at the moment: children are getting basic te reo lessons at their schools and there is generally more interest in the language and its culture than ever before. We loved how Maori words were easily interchanged with English words in everyday conversations, creating an intriguing linguistic mixture. You will therefore quite often hear people saying to one another: "How's your whanau?" rather than using the English term 'family'. Obviously, you will find people who are against all this promotion of the native tongue, believing it is a waste of time, but as I believe language and culture are strongly connected, I feel as though it strengthens the country's bonds between the two people. Many universities offer free degrees in the Maori language to anyone interested and Ben and I have already decided that if ever we come back to this lovely country, we will definitely take them up on that offer. In the mean time though, there is an excellent show on Maori TV called "Toku Reo" aimed at teaching the language to (mostly) children. We once watched it and really enjoyed the interactive programs! You can find more about it here: Toku Reo - Free Maori Lessons


So before you start practising, remember that each syllable is stressed equally. As for the pronunciation, the vowel sounds are very simple:
A as the "a" in the word 'car'.
E as the "e" in the word 'text' or 'deck'.
I as in the "ee" sound in 'see'.
O as the "o" in the word 'golf'.
U as in the "oo" sound in 'group.
And last but not least, remember that the combination of 'wh' creates the "f" sound as in the world 'fantastic' or the "ph" sound as in the word 'phone'. Easy as! ;)

Aotearoa - Land of the Long White Cloud.
(Nau Mai) Haere Mai - Welcome
Haere Ra - Good bye.
Hongi - traditional greeting by pressing noses.
Iwi - tribal group.
Ka Kite Ano - See you again.
Kai - food
Kai te pehea koe? - How are you?
Kia' Ora - Hello! Greetings! Literally: Good health to you!
Kia Kaha - Stay strong!
Moana - sea, ocean
Pakeha - Non-Maori person
Tamariki - children
Tangata - People
Tangata Whenua - People of the land.
Whanau - Family
Whenua - Earth

Te Rauparaha's Haka/ All Blacks Haka:

Ka Mate Ka Mate!
Ka Ora Ka Ora!
Ka Mate Ka Mate!
Ka Ora Ka Ora!
Teni Te Tangata Puhuruhuru
Nana i Tiki Mai Whakawhiti Te Ra
A Upane A Upane
A Upane Ka Upane
Whiti Te Ra. Hi!

I may die I may die
I may live I may live (x2)
This hairy man he's the one
Who brought the sun
I climb up step
by step to greet
the sun

Happy Birthday to You!

To the usual sound of the classic birthday song, simply substitute the "Happy Birthday to You" words with the Maori equivalent of: "Ra Whanau Kia Koe" (roughly pronounced in English as: raa faa-now kya k'way) Sadly enough, we only found out about this a few days after Ben's birthday!

Nice Expressions

Mehema koe ka tuoho, meinga ki te maunga tetei.
- If you should bow to greatness, let it be to a lofty mountain.

Iti noa ana, he pito mata.
- With care, a small kumara will produce a harvest

Kanohi ki te kanohi
- Face to face

Titiro whakamiharo ki nga tamariki a Tane
E tu whakaruru hau nei
He taonga whakamiharo
He tirohanga ki tuawhakarere
- Look at the children of Tane
Standing as shelters to the wind
Treasures to be admired
A remnant of ages past.

Toitu he kianga; whatungarongaro he tangata
- People are transient things but the land endures

Hope you enjoyed that! Ka kite ano!

Posted by Fat Face 05:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

KIWIANA: Fauna and Flora (2)

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We never had much of an interest in different species of trees until we came to New Zealand. The trees in this country are something out of the ordinary and the surrounding bush displays a range of different foliages. Rarely will you find the same trees clustered together to create one uniform forest. Instead, the native trees cooperate together with each other. I remember that on one of our rainy days in the Waitakere Ranges, Ben popped his head out the window of the old bach and exclaimed: "The trees in New Zealand look so happy. Look, it's as though they are smiling at you!" and he wasn't wrong. The trees do look happier here and it is no wonder that many of the people we have met across our journey are actively helping out DOC (Department of Conservation) and helping to regenerate the native bush.

The Cabbage Tree

Cabbage Tree - named after the cabbage because the root, stem and top are all edible providing a good source of starch, fibre and sugar. They can grow from approximately 12 to 20 metres high with long narrow leaves of about a metre long, which were traditionally woven into baskets, sandals, etc. The trunk of the cabbage tree is so fire-resistant that early European settlers used it to make chimneys for their huts. Conveniently, the leaves make great kindling and the roots can be brewed into a beer.

This tree will always remind us of our time with Diane and Brent in Tauranga, Bay of Islands. Brent had created a niche building company - Cabbage Tree Cottages - using only the most beautiful natural timbers, creating idyllic cottages. He has upgraded his designs to create big family homes, such is the public demand for it!

The Fern

(Silver) Fern is a beautiful tree which can grow to heights of 10m or more with beautiful fronds of about 4m long with either silver-white or green colouration on the undersides. The distinctive silver colouration was traditionally used for laying along tracks for night walking.


Our time in Whangarei working in the country B&B was not the most memorable of times, but it did start our love for the fern trees. Drew, our host, made us pay attention to the fact that despite their being two kinds of fern trees: the silver fern and the green fern, it was impossible to tell from the leaves what colour the bottom would be. Even botanical experts cannot differentiate them without turning them upside down. It makes for a very fun guessing game of "green or silver?"


Flax - "big, bold and glamorous" were the famous words of a landscape artist when describing these plants. Traditionally used by Maoris for weaving and other uses, these are surprisingly hardy plants which can stand up to salty coastal winds and smog. There are several varieties with different coloured foliage other than the standard green ones. Some have reddish purple leaves, other have striped cream and white coloured leaves, and yet others can look bronzy red, or even feature tricoloured foliage.

Flax Weaving

Kanuka Trees

Kanuka - Around the Christmas and New Year's period when we were staying with hosts Bill and Marion, one of our tasks was to pot little kanuka trees, which Marion had lovingly grown from seed. With their delicate and soft green foliage, we really came to love these trees and we were very proud to have been able to play a part in our hosts' regeneration program.

Kauri Tree

Kauri trees are the most cherished native trees in New Zealand. The largest tree by volume, though not by height, this tree is found on the North Island only. The tree has smooth bark and small narrow leaves. Kauri forests are amongst the most ancient in the world and appeared during the Jurassic period (between 190 and 135 million years ago).


Kowhai - small, woody legume trees which grow throughout the country. Kowhai comes from the Maori word for yellow; a reference to the colour of the flower. We have never been aware much of the beautiful Kowhai tree and whenever I saw the name written down, I always assumed it was the Maori word for 'coffee'. It was not until I started to research the different trees for this kiwiana blog series that I became more aware of them.

Nikau Palm

Nikau Palms are the southernmost member of the palm family, a group that is usually tropical or even sub-tropical. It is New Zealand's only native palm and grows about 10-15 metres tall. It is easily recognisable by its circular trunk with fronds up to three metres in length. While driving down to the Punaikaiki pancake rocks on the West Coast of the South Island, we came across many Nikau palms, which added a strange out of place tropical flavour to the area.


Pohutukawa - also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree because it flowers around this period. Due to their preference for milder climates, pohutukawas are rarely found in the South Island, except for around the mild Marlborough and Nelson areas. Unfortunately, we were no where near these areas around Christmas and so we never got to see them in full bloom, which is a real shame.


Rata - of the same species of native trees than the pohutukawa above. It usually begins life perched on a host tree and once the roots grow down to the ground it finally encloses it and produces its own tree. This can eventually grow up to 25m high and grows both on the North and South Islands. Rata trees have glossy dark green leaves and trunks that are often gnarled and twisted. They are best known for their brilliant red flowers that appear in profusion from November to January.


Rimu trees are large evergreen coniferous trees unique to the forests of New Zealand. It used to be known as 'red pine', but this name has fallen out of common use. It grows through out New Zealand. Rimu is a slow-growing tree, eventually attaining the height of up to 50m, although most surviving large trees tend to be slightly smaller than that, with a lifespan of approximately 800 to 900 years. Historically, rimu was one of the main sources of wood, including furniture and house construction. Recent government policies now forbid the practice of felling these trees.

When we were staying in Tauranga, Bay of Islands, our host Diane went for a weekend get-away with her mother to Christchurch, leaving us pretty much in charge of the men. To show her appreciation for this, she returned with a beautiful wooden pendant for the festive season made from Rimu wood. It was a really lovely gesture and we look forward to hanging it up in our first ever Christmas tree!

Rimu Christmas Decoration - Kiwiana style!

Paua Shell

Paua Shell is the world's most colourful and by far the most beautiful shells we have ever encountered. When we were with our hosts Wayn and Maxine in the Wairau Valley, I found one of the shells lying around their paddocks and asked if I could keep it. A few days later, Maxine came to see me with a whole collection of them and it turned out that when her daughter went out snorkelling, she had asked her if she could bring home some paua shells for me. It was incredibly sweet of her. And it was Maxine who gave us the tip of scrubbing the rough parts with a bit of sanding paper, to allow the colours to properly pop out! These paua shells are a huge selling point in the tourist shops scattered around all the bigger towns, so imagine our delight when not much after staying with Maxine and Wayn, we found some on the East coast beaches at low tide! It feels a lot like finding a treasure!

Unfortunately, the poor trees are being attacked by the import of possums from Australia (see Kiwiana: Animals). Thanks to ferocious trapping and hunting, possums are being kept away from the native trees, slowly allowing them to regenerate. Possum hides are very popular for blending in with merino wool to create lovely soft clothing and the pricing of them is very high. Another idea is to use the possum hide as a lamp shade, as we saw being used at the 'Possum Inn' in Golden Bay with its logo: "Undressing the Possum to Redress our Forests".


After your little lesson on native trees, you should now be able to understand the joke:

Rata's Revenge

I thought it was very funny! Anyway, I am very sorry for the delay in posting these blog entries. We are still getting used to our new life in Darwin and somehow we keep neglecting our precious blog readers! Hope to be posting some more soon! Much love x

Posted by Fat Face 05:33 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Kiwiana: Music

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And what better way to follow-up a movie blog post than with a music blog post! We received a wonderful introduction into the world of Kiwi music thanks to our lovely hosts Bill and Marion in Greta Valley, who got us a wonderful CD collection for Christmas. We had heard of the 'Great New Zealand Songbook', which brought out a great mix of songs every year, but it was not until we opened up our present that we realised it had recently brought out a 'Collector's Edition' of four CDs!! We could not have thought of a better present to take away with us and we often sit back and listen to the wonderful songs that this country has produced!


It would be no fun to give you a series of song and artist names, so I thought I would make it a little more interactive by giving you a YouTube link (or maybe even two) of what we believe to be a nice mini-feature of an extraordinary repertoire. Sing or hum along if you know the tune!

Anika Moa

Anika Moa's is a woman of contrast and many people cannot quite connect her sweet smooth voice with her loud bubbly personality, heavily tattooed arms, and bad mouth comments. She was signed to a well-respected American records company, but when they tried to commercialise her music, she returned to New Zealand. This down-to-earth personality has earned her respect and admiration across the nation.
Video1: Dreams in My Head
Video 2: Running Through the Fire

Bic Runga

Part Maori, part Chinese Malaysian, singer-songwriter Bic Runga is much loved in New Zealand and often sited as being the highest selling New Zealand artist in recent history. Her song 'Sway' brought her international credit, where she was mostly seen as a 'one hit wonder' because of her career break of almost six years. With a new album, fuelled by her experiences of motherhood, she is warmly welcomed back into the music charts.
Video 1: Sway
Video 2: Hello Hello

Brooke Fraser

Highly catchy and now used in advertisements on both the radio and television, this feel good song came out when we just arrived into the country and it has followed us every since, bringing a smile to our face. We were therefore so pleased when it featured on the 'New Zealand Songbook'.
Video: Something in the Water

Dave Dobbyn

Often seen as a musical legend, Dave Dobbyn has been around for a while. He was given the honour to perform live in Auckland on the opening day of the Rugby World Cup with his famous song 'Welcome Home/ Haere Mae', welcoming the many thousands of rugby supporters that came to New Zealand.
Video: Welcome Home

Fat Freddy's Drop

Fat Freddy's Drop is probably one of New Zealands better know bands. Their unique sound, which is instantly recognisable, is a funky mix of reggae, soul and jazz.
Video: Wandering Eye

Gotye (featuring Kimbra)

Gotye is a Flemish artist, who moved to Australia as a young boy and Kimbra is "the best thing that came out of Hamilton" and now a Kiwi sensation. This catchy song and great video became famous has taken the world by storm in 2011 and won a number of awards.
Video: Somebody that I Used to Know


The rest of Kimbra's solo repertoire is very different to the song above that made her so well-known: quirky, somewhat strange, with a strong personal stamp. It's not unusual to approach her music with certain uncertainty.
Video: I Want to Settle Down


realeased well over a decade ago in 1995, OMC's hit single "How Bizarre" was a worldwide success. We had no idea it was by a New Zealand band until we saw it featured on one of our CDs. Ah, you learn something new every day!
Video: How Bizarre

Tiki Taane

Despite his bad boy looks and past behaviour, there is something about Tiki Taane and his music that gives you a feeling of contentment.
Video: Always on My Mind

Patea Maori Club

Ah, this has to be one of my all time Maori favourites. This also featured in our favourite Kiwi movie 'Boy' (see: Kiwiana Movies) which makes it even better! Unfortunately, during our stay in New Zealand, the lead singer of the Patea Maori Club passed away. Her spirit will forever linger on in the country's musical repertoire.
Video: Poi E

Pokarekare Ana

During our first days in New Zealand, we decided to watch the Billy Connolly series he created whilst visiting the country. "Pokarekare Ana" was the opening song and it was one of those songs which made us go bonkers as we simply could not get it out of our heads. Little did we know that this song had so much importance to the Maoris and here is why: a traditional Maori love song with a range of different speculations over who might have composed it. Most claim the song to be written by a homesick soldier, serving in the Maori Battalion during World War I - with it's tale of longing, for home & loved ones immediately touched his fellow countrymen, who adopted the haunting melody as thier own. It's now a poignient musical touch-stone for any homesick New Zealander (and, may I add, any traveller homesick for this magical country). Make sure to press the "cc" button on the YouTube video to get the subtitles and enjoy the stunning scenery!
Pokarekare Ana

There are heaps more songs (note the use of "heaps" like a real Kiwi!), but obviously, we cannot mention them all. I hope this gives a good idea though and hope it brought some entertainment to your computer screen! Much love, xxx

Posted by Fat Face 06:24 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Kiwiana: Maori Culture

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New Zealand would not be New Zealand without the Maoris. Once fierce warriors fighting against the colonialist regimes, the two nations now live side by side, interchanging language, culture and traditions. This strong heritage was repressed for a long time until it made a revival not so long ago. There is a realisation that it must be kept alive for it to be passed on to future generations and why wouldn't you want to? It's a wonderful culture, steeped in centuries of history and ancient traditions. I invite you to come along and enjoy it with us on a small scale!

Maori Flag

The Haka

Haka refers to all types of Maori dances. There were different ones for men, particularly warriors, for women, for mixed groups and for children. The Maori Haka has been made popular today by the New Zealand rugby team also known as the All Blacks performed before their matches. Traditionally, the complex performances were an expression of vigour, passion and were an identity of each tribe. They were also used as a pastime to derive enjoyment and bring the Maori together, welcome and entertain guests and visitors, to recognize achievement, by warriors before war and for many other reasons. The original warrior dance was composed by a warrior chief by the name Te Rauparaha who upon surviving the onslaught of the enemy was jubilant of the escape. An example of this is the ka-mate Haka, which is the one performed by the All Blacks as an embodiment of preparedness, determination, skill and commitment. It has to be performed in unison to appease the gods of the Maori, but the traditional weapons are no longer used as accessories.

The Hangi

Hangi is a traditional Maori method of cooking. To "lay hangi" or "put down a hangi" involves digging a pit in the ground, followed by heating stones in the pit with a large fire, then placing baskets of food on top of the stones, and covering everything with earth for several hours before uncovering/ lifting the hangi. There are many variations, but it is still used for special occasions.

Hei Matau

Hei Matau - an ancient Maori symbol, also called "fish hook". It symbolises abundance and is worn for prosperity and good luck.

The Hongi

Hongi is a traditional Maori greeting. It is done by pressing one's nose and forehead (at the same time) to another person's at an encounter. It is used at traditional meetings among Maori people and on major ceremonies and serves a similar purpose to a formal handshake in modern western culture. During a hongi, the ha (breath of life) is exchanged and intermingled. By doing this, one is no longer considered manuhiri (visitor) but rather tangata whenua, one of the people of the land. During the remainder of your stay, you are then obliged to share in all the duties and responsibilities of the home people. In Maori folklore, woman was created by the golds moulding her shape out of the earth. The god Tane (meaning male) embraced the figure and breathed into her nostrils. She then sneezed and came to life. Her name was Hineahuone (earth formed woman).

The Koru

The Koru is derived from the native New Zealand fern frond. In Maori culture, it stands for new beginnings, new life, growth and harmony.


Manaia or spiritual guardian is a bird-like figure in Maori mythology. It acts as a provider and protector over the air, waters and land.

The Marae

Marae is a sacred open meeting area, generally situated in fron of the whare runanga, communal meeting house, is the area of greatest mana (spirituality). It is a place that heightens people's dignity, and the place in which Maori customs are given the ultimate expression. It is the basis of traditional Maori community life, it is their home and the place where official functions take place such as celebrations, weddings, funerals, christenings, tribal reunions, etc. These tribal reunions are known as a hui which literally means 'to congregate' or 'gather together'

The Mere

The Mere is a traditional, flat, Maori hand weapon, shaped like a short club. It symbolises the facing and overcoming of life's challenges and difficulties.

Ta Moko

Moko_Man.jpg Moko.gif
Ta Moko is the permanent body and face marking by Maori. Traditionally it is distinct from tattoo in that the skin was carved by uhi (chisels) rather than punctured. This left the skin with grooves, rather than a smooth surface. As quoted from Captain Cook in 1769: "The marks in general are spirals drawn with great nicety and even elegance. One side corresponds with the other. The marks on the body resemble foliage in old chased ornaments, convolutions of filigree work, but in these they have such a luxury of forms that of a hundred which at first appeared exactly the same no two were formed alike on close examination." The Tohunga ta moko (tattooists) were considered tapu (exceptionally inviolable and sacred). Misappropriation by pakeha's (non-Maoris) is seen as a grave offence. Receiving moko was a rite of passage for young Maoris. Apart from signalling status and rank, another reason in traditional times was to make a person more attractive to the opposite sex. Men generally received moko on their faces, buttocks and thighs. Women usually wore moko on their lips and chins, as seen above.

The Pikorua

The Pikorua is a traditional Maori pendant of friendship and growth. This carving depicts two new shoots growing together; the joining of cultures.

The Powhiri

Powhiri is a traditional Maori welcome, during which traditionally the hongi (see above) is performed three times: one to greet the person, secondly to acknowledge ancestors and a third time to honour life in this world.

Te Karanga

Te Karanga - call of welcome: "Come forward, visitors from afar, Welcome, welcome!" (Haere mai, haere mai). Bring with you the spirits of your dead, that they may be greeted, that they may be mourned. Ascend into our Marea, ascend the sacred Marae of our people. Welcome, welcome. (Haere Mai, Haere Mai)."

The Teko Teko

The Teko Teko is a Maori carving representing protection and guidance. It is usually placed on gables of meeting houses or gateways.

The Tiki

The beloved Tiki was a Maori carving, depicting the 'first mortal born'. It has now become a New Zealand artifact of spiritual love - a good luck charm.

The Wahaika

The Wahaika is a historic Maori hand weapon, used for quick action. This New Zealand carving symbolises the overcoming of life's challenges.

The Waka

The Waka is a traditional Maori war canoe. It takes an important place in New Zealand history.


Whakapapa - "papa" is anything broad, flat and hard such as a flat rock, a slab or a board. Whakapapa is to place in layers, lay one upon another. Hence the term is used to describe both the recitation in proper order of genealogies, and also to name the genealogies. The visualisation is of building layer by layer upon the past towards the present, and on into the future. It also includes the many spiritual, mythological and human stories.

You have already read the beautiful legend of 'How the Kiwi Lost its Wings' (see Kiwiana: Animals), so I am going to leave you with two other well-known legends! Enjoy!

The Legend of Maui and the Magic Fishhook.

Maui was a demi-god, who lived in Hawaiiki. He possessed magic powers that not all of his family knew about. One day when he was very young, he hid in the bottom of his brothers' boat in order to go out fishing with them. Once out at sea, Maui was discovered by his brothers, but they were not able to take him back to shore as Maui made use of his magic powers, making the shoreline seem much further away than it was in reality. So, the brothers continued rowing, and once they were far out into the ocean Maui dropped his magic fishhook over the side of the waka (Maori canoe). After a while he felt a strong tug on the line. This seemed to be too strong a tug to be any ordinary fish, so Maui called to his brothers for assistance. After much straining and pulling, up suddenly surfaced Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui), known today as the North Island of New Zealand. Maui told his brothers that the Gods might be angry about this, and he asked his brothers to wait while he went to make peace with the Gods. However, once Maui had gone his brothers began to argue among themselves about the possession of this new land. They took out their weapons and started pounding away at the catch. The blows on the land created the many mountains and valleys of the North Island today. The South Island is known as Te Waka a Maui (the waka of Maui). Stewart Island, which lies at the very bottom of New Zealand, is known as Te Punga a Maui (Maui's anchor), as it was the anchor holding Maui's waka as he pulled in the giant fish.

The Story of the Creation

In the beginning there was no sky, no sea, no earth and no Gods. There was only darkness, only Te Kore, the Nothingness. The very beginning was made from nothing. From this nothingness, the primal parents of the Māori came, Papatuanuku, the Earth mother, and Ranginui, the Sky father. Papatuanuku and Ranginui came together, embracing in the darkness, and had 70 male children. These offspring became the gods of the Māori. However, the children of Papatuanuku and Ranginui were locked in their parents embrace, in eternal darkness, and yearned to see some light. They eventually decided that their parents should be separated, and had a meeting to decide what should be done.
They considered for a long time - should Rangi and Papa be killed? Or shall they be forced to separate? Finally, Tumatauenga, the god of War, said "Let us kill our parents". However, Tane-Mahuta, the god of man and forests, and all which inhabits the forests, thought that Rangi and Papa should be separated. He thought that Ranginui should go up above, to the sky, and that Papatuanuku should go below, to dwell on earth. All the children, including Tu, the God of War, agreed with Tane.
Tawhiri Matea, the god of winds and storms was the only child who did not wish for his parents to be separated. He feared that his kingdom would be overthrown. One by one the children tried to separate their parents. Rongomatane, the god and father of cultivated foods, tried without success. Haumia Tiketike, god of uncultivated food also tried. Then it was the turn of Tangaroa, the god of the sea, and Tumatauenga, the god of war, but neither Tangaroa nor Tumatauenga could separate their parents. Lastly Tane-Mahuta rose. Strong as the kauri tree, he placed his shoulders against his mother Papatuanuku and his feet against his father Ranginui, and he pushed hard, for a very long time, straining and heaving all the while. Rangi and Papa cried in pain, asking their sons" why do you wish to destroy our love?"
After a long time Tane finally managed to separate Rangi and Papa, and for the first time the children saw the light of day (ao Marama) come streaming in. Once this happened, Tawhiri Matea, the god of winds and storms, and who had been against the separation of his parents, left for the sky to join his father. The turbulent winds and storms on earth are caused by Tawhiri Matea, in revenge for this brother's acts.
Now that the separation of Papatuanuku and Ranginui was complete, and there was a sky and an earth. However, there was just one missing element, and Tane decided to create a female. From an area named Kura-waka Tane took some clay, and modelled it into a woman. He then breathed life into it, and created Hine-ahu-one - the earth formed maiden. Tane and Hine had a beautiful daughter called Hinetitama. When Hinetitama grew, she had daughters to Tane. One day Hinetitama asked Tane who her father was, and on discovering that Tane was the father of her children, she fled with shame into the night, to a place called Rarohenga, the underworld. From then on she became known as Hine-nui-te-po, the goddess of the night.

Posted by Fat Face 08:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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