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Hekerangi is the block of land on which three marae, which includes our marae of Ruaihona, have been established. Hekerangi was named by Tāmihana also known as Taramoa (Apihai's father), who lived on the block. He was a brother to Kaimahamaha, Ra Matarena and Huriana. Tamihana's daughter Rangi died and was buried on the block now known as Taikāwa, and he subsequently named the block Hekerangi, to signify ‘Te Hekenga o Rangi’ – the descent of Rangi to Hine-nui-te-po.
About the year 1890, Uiraroa, then the marae of the Ngati Nuku hapu later to become the Ngai Tamawera hapu, was the only marae established on the block and served the whole Hekerangi community, and, as people at the time claimed affiliation to all hapu, hapu differences were not so marked. A chance remark however, saw the move to establish the two other marae at Hekerangi, and differing hapu membership became more defined.
In 1908, Eramiha Neke Kapua, member of the famed Ngati Tarawhai family of carvers who had married Wairāta, stepsister to our tipuna Aporina Te Pori, made a move to build a wharenui on land gifted by Apihai Tamihana of Ngai Tamaoki hapu who incidentally was also the brother of our own tipuna Huriana Te Rehe Arikirangi. He did all the carvings for the wharenui, but during the construction he was assisted by Te Hekenui and Rewiri Akuhata from the adjacent Uiraroa marae.
Reuben Akuhata, son of Te Hekenui, became the artist of the famed ‘Folk Art’ paintings of the contact period that were hung at the rear end of the wharenui.
As an established Ringatu tohunga, Eramiha naturally supposed it would also cater for the needs of his parishioners – ‘hai awhi i te whakapono’ and it was at a Ringatū Rā, the first of July – te Hūrae – 1910, that the original Ruaihona wharenui was opened.
For nearly eight decades, he stood proud and dignified, withstanding the ravages of time, until Ruaumoko, in a passing fit of fury raged across the Rangitaiki Plains in 1987, shaking the already shaky foundations of old Ruaihona, thus sealing its fate. It triggered a thought that he was beyond redemption, so on Sunday 9th October 1988, he was put to rest on the ground to make way for a new Ruaihona.
He did not go down without strong support for his retention. There was much korerorero and soul searching which began way back in 1981 when the young people of the marae began to show interest in its restoration.
In February 1984, members of the Historic Places Trust which included Dr Neil Begg, Dr Maui Pomare, Mr Tipene O’Regan, Cliff Whiting and Lena Manuel, paid a visit, the outcome of which was an undertaking by the Trust to do a feasibility study on the old whare tipuna. Subsequent visits by Cliff Whiting produced a report drawn up in January 1985 by Messrs Chris Cochrane and Tere Insley of the Ministry of Works Department, Wellington.
The Historic Places Trust had by this time made a commitment to help the committee with the restoration work and had duly presented a cheque for $12,000. They expressed a strong desire to see the old tipuna restored enumerating their reasons, namely that it was the only wharenui carved and completed entirely by Eramiha Neke Kapua, the nationally renowned Ngati Tarawhai master carver, and as such was of much historic value.
Committee had accepted and passed a resolution to have old Ruaihona restored and in 1986 tenders were called for its re-siting. The Rangatira of the marae Kapua Teua began to express his misgivings as to the cost of restoration despite the grant from the Historic Places Trust, so it was back to the table for more korerorero. It was during this time of much debating, arguing and reasoning that Ruaumoko struck, thus spelling the end for this dear old wharenui.
This whare tipuna which had sheltered the Ngai Tamaoki hapu for 78 years, had been the repository of whaikorero from great orators the like of which has not been heard since. Its rafters had absorbed the karakia and resounded with the waiata of those great tohunga and orators. It had witnessed many a Ringatū wedding and many of our tipuna had passed through her portal. It had borne witness to the communal feasts which were heralded by their horn, ‘Te Korokoro o Wahine Kino’.
All these were laid to rest when dear old Ruaihona tuatahi was laid to rest on 9th October, 1988.
Ruaihona, as he stands today, rose from the ashes of Ruaihona tawhito. It has been superbly and magnificently carved by the late Ahirau Kaka Niao Ngaheu, who, incidentally was taught the craft by Eramiha Neke Kapua, carver of the original Ruaihona. He was ably assisted by his son and by Hare Reneti.
The structural building, begun in 1989, was done by a collection of people on work programmes, supervised by Nepia and Pairama Ranapia; Apakura Chase and Tim Karaitiana; and Cappy Karaitiana, with overall supervisor the Chairman of the then marae committee, George Maniapoto
What was redeemable of carvings from the old Ruaihona were incorporated into the new Ruaihona, parts such as the amo, maihi, pare and of course the unique contact period paintings to the rear of the house.
The women’s contribution, the tukutuku panels were done by volunteers from Ngai Tamaoki and supportive members from other hapu, supervised and instructed by Katerina Waiari and Te Kutiwera Te Maipi.
Much of the final finishing and painting was done by volunteers with the late Rangatira, Kapua Kakaho Teua very much in the midst of it all. He was the driving force behind the whole project, who unfortunately passed away before the opening of this grand wharenui on 6th March 1993.
Mahanga-i-te-Rangi, wife of Ruaihona, is the name of the wharekai. Like all marae in the process of being established, Ruaihona had no wharekai for quite some time. It had a kauta from which they graduated to an unlined corrugated iron structure, finally to the present wooden structure which was built by Tama Samuels and Hiwi Leonard.
Barely completed, it was opened without ceremony in September 1952 to cater for the tangi of Aporina Teua Kapua.
In 2004, the dining area had a facelift. George Maniapoto and some whanau members revarnished the wooden walls in preparation for the murals painted by Toihoukura (School of Contemporary Arts, Tairawhiti).
The significance to Mahanga-i-te-Rangi is that her tipuna was Rongo-a-tau, recognised rangatira at Hawaiiki at the time of the construction of Mataatua waka.
Kanioro, daughter or Rongo-a-Tau, married Pourangahau, the result of that union being Mahanga-i-te-Rangi.
At the completion of Mataatua waka, the Chief, Rongo-a-tau sent his son-in-law Pourangahau to be the tohunga aboard the waka to soothe the elements Tawhirimatea and Tangaroa, to allow Mataatua waka safe passage during its journey to Aotearoa.
The following is the history of Pourangahua and Mahanga-i-te-rangi
(Story by Tepene Mamaku)
Pourangahua and his wife Kanioro lived at Kirikino in the East Coast, where their twins were born, one of whom was critically ill at birth. Pourangahua and his wife returned to the home of the hapu of Kanioro, at Mataora on Mauke in the Cook Islands. Pou left the other baby with his kaitiaki and took the unhealthy one. At this stage, Kanioro had not seen either of her offspring, and with the father of Kanioro, Chief Rongoatua of Mataora, spent the whole night performing rituals. By morning, the baby had recovered. Later, the kaitiaki arrived with the other twin, and, for the first time, Kanioro saw her babies.
Now, Ruakapanga had a wife Nuiho, and they had two children. One was called Manu, the other Nuake. Although Manu was in her senior years, she was still untouched by man. Through karakia, she was transformed into a bird, 'ka tangohia te ira wahine, ka whakatongia ki te ira tāne'.
When the bird landed beside Ruakapanga, he, through karakia, presented it with names, ie, 'Te Manunui a Ruakapanga', 'Te Manu tioriori a Tāne tiketike o te rangi', and the bird grew to a size enabling it to carry Pou.
Pourangahua came back on Te Manunui o Ruakapanga with the sacred stems (Kura) of Taininihi (Atua Wairua). One stem was to smooth the elements ahead of the waka Takitimu and Mataatua, and to be plunged into the place where the migrants would plant the first kumara plot. This spot, we know today as Matirerau, is in the vicinity of Te Whare o Toroa marae at Wairaka, Whakatane. The second stem, 'the mauri of the kumara', was to be conveyed to the East Coast.
The first kumara was red, signalling the arrival of Mataatua when the pohutukawa was in bloom. The second kumara was white, the purity of the mauri of the famed kumara still famous today on the East Coast.
Kanioro, the wife of Pourangahua, and their lucky to be alive daughter named Mahanga i te Rangi, husband Ruaihona and their son Tahinga-o-te-ra, came on the Mataatua waka. The other twin, name unknown, remained with his grandfather Rongoatau.
Ka moe a Ruakapanga i a Nuiho, ka puta ko Nuake. Na Nuake ko Manunui tuarua, na Manunui ko Wekanui. Ka moe a Wekanui i a Irakewa, ka puta ko Muriwai, ko Toroa, ko Puhi Moana Ariki.