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  • Author: Nicola Coburn
  • Date Posted: Apr 20, 2021
  • Category:

Ngā Whatu Kaipono o te Wheke-a-Muturangi (The Brothers Islands) 

For Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngā Whatu Kaipono (“the Eyes That Stand as Witness to the Deeds of Kupe”) have always been a tapu place. They are the eyeballs of Te Wheke-a-Muturangi, the wheke (octopus) slain by Kupe.

The tapu associated with the islands required travellers to recite karakia when crossing Te Moana o Raukawakawa (Cook Strait), and only the descendants of Kupe, persons of high mana, or tohunga could look at the islands – gazed on by anyone else and misfortune would follow. To avoid mishap, kaihoe (paddlers) would wear a headpiece made from kawakawa. Once the kaihoe had reached safety, they would throw their tīpare kawakawa into the water, creating a sea of kawakawa leaves, hence the name Te Moana o Raukawakawa.