Books bring history to life
A Blenheim couple have combined their skills to come up with a "people friendly" way to keep their history alive.
Ngati Kuia trust member Peter Meihana was approached by his community with a request for more written documentation of their history and traditions.
"They want to see more of our stories and traditions in book forms because although we are from the Marlborough Sounds, Havelock and Canvastown, lots of our people live outside the area."
A history lecturer at Massey University, Meihana has a particular interest in researching Ngati Kuia history.
When approached by the iwi, he decided to look for some stories which could be translated into children's books and read by Ngati Kuia people wherever they were.
He selected two stories, based on his own ancestors and true events, and sought the skills of his partner Rina Pinker, of Te Arawa and Maniapoto, to turn them into "people friendly" stories.
The first, based on a canoe which was carved by his great-grandfathers, became Riding the Wai, while the second, based on the mutton bird harvest, became A Titi Tale.
Harvesting mutton birds was historically a common practice for Ngati Kuia, Meihana said.
Pinker, a former graphic designer with "tight rhyming skills", wrote and illustrated the bilingual books, putting her own spin on the characters to make them more appealing to children.
"When [Riding the Wai] took place, these guys [in the story] were old, but we can't have an old man on a surf board, so Rina turned them into kids so it's kids looking at kids," Meihana said.
There was still a place for Meihana's in-depth knowledge in the books, with historical notes written by him at the back of each one.
They were already a hit with their own nieces and nephews, and Ngati Kuia has been approached by an Auckland-based company to buy the books to put into libraries throughout New Zealand, Meihana said.
If libraries or schools want to order the books they can contact the runanga, on 0800 642 845.
The Marlborough Express