Whakapapa is enduring, and no matter the circumstances you find yourself in, your whakapapa will see you through – and it is never irredeemable. That’s the take-home message I received from The Standing Strong House, a new children’s book from Reina Kahukiwa and illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa.
Based around the story of hapū Ngāti Tū Māia, The Standing Strong house revolves around multiple generations, weaving our stories together in a way that celebrates tīpuna, mokopuna, Ātua, and kaitieki. This book provides learnings on our ancestral worlds, our survival of colonial interference, the Atua realms of the marae and wharenui, and our visual and performing arts. Reina Kahukiwa’s writing style provide easy interpretation of the reo in the book and therein lies another wonderful reo resource for all.
Robyn Kahukiwa treats us to a new vibrant, plaintive watercolour with every page. For those of you who, like me, came of age poring over Robyn Kahukiwa’s illustrations and artworks, introducing them to your daughters is a whakapapa experience in itself. I’ve read this book with my girls twice now. It spans centuries, with different phases to the story, and so we break the book up and read it over three nights. That way we also get to spend time looking at the artworks and practicing our reo as we describe them. My youngest enjoys touching the moko kauwae on the page, then touching my own moko kauwae, and it’s always my favourite moment.
We are seeds sown in the chiefly soils of Rangiātea. An immutable thread through time, and in our bones remain the minerals of the soil that our tipuna Hine-Ahu-One arose from. She, and all of our tipuna between her, and us, are carried within us. Colonial interference may distract us for a time, but whakapapa is a powerful thing, it will heal and it will re-weave. Sometimes it will take generations, but when the story of your people spans aeons, this is but a blink of an eye.
There are huge issues taken on by this book, just as there are huge issues taken on by us as a people. Colonial theft, urbanisation, homelessness, cultural desolation are all touched upon, as is our strength, beauty, courage, capacity for love, and resilience. As I consider the future for our mokopuna, I for one fully appreciated the honest and reassuring voice of The Strong Standing House, whispering to us as our own kuia have, that all hope is never lost, and no matter how dark the night, there will always be a dawn.
Korihi te manu, takiri mai i te ata. Ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea.
(The bird sings, the morning dawns, the day breaks through)
You can get your copy here.