Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two Tainui Adventurers

Rae, in her words, ‘elder-sat’ while Anne went out last evening. We watched together a TV programme on Maori Television, The Flight of Te Hookioi. In 1860 Wiremu Toe-Toe and his nephew Hemra Te Rerehau, two well-tattooed Tainui tribesmen sailed from Auckland as crewmen on board the Austrian naval frigate Novara. The Novara’s arrival, it was on a scientific mission, had caused quite a stir in Auckland.

After the ship arrived safely home in Trieste the two men railed to Vienna. There they worked at a printing press. They were lionised as exotic novelties. Both proved excellent dancers. What is unique is that Te Rerehau kept a diary. Apparently Toe-Toe sired a child. Quite likely there is a gene pool of his descendants living in central Europe.

The two men met the young Emperor Franz Josef who gave them their own printing press as a farewell gift. They went on to England to an audience with Queen Victoria before sailing back to New Zealand. Aboard the ship were British soldiers on their way to fight the Maori in the Waikato.

Back home they established the newspaper Te Hookioi which proved an important weapon in the fight for the Maori to retain their own land and is still a voice for the Kingitanga today.

The producer of the documentary took back to modern day Vienna a copy of the first edition of Te Hookioi to present to descendants of Franz Josef. There were stunning shots of the magnificent architecture of the city, a reminder of the past glories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It was a low-keyed documentary, charmingly effective and informative in its rather amateurish footage. I am pleased to have seen it.

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