Flicking through HAKA is like flicking through a picture book illustrated by C. F. Goldie. Andrew Burdan has used all of his considerable skill in bringing this story to life, sending the great Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha fleeing across the pages as you are drawn into Patricia Grace’s tale of the composition of ‘Ka Mate’.
While I will admit we don’t watch very much rugby in our house, we have watched a good number of haka on YouTube, as our children adore watching this display of fierce resistance, in whatever context. My 5-year-old, Dan, gets caught up in the theatricality of it, and both of my boys like to try and perform.
Reading this book with Dan has given me a way to talk with him about Maori traditions and the way that they are honoured in everyday life here; and how unique we are in having this rich history. While I was aware of the legacy of Te Rauparaha, I wasn’t aware that he was the inspiration for, and composer of ‘Ka Mate’. The story of him hiding in a friendly tribe’s vegetable pit was fascinating for both of us.
The build-up of the actions as Te Rauparaha returns to his tribe to tell them about his narrow escape is beautifully rendered; and shows clearly that every member of the tribe was involved, not just men, but women and children. The development of ‘Ka Mate’ into something we recognise now is simply portrayed by a series of shadows across the spread, with the simple words ‘They taught it to their children, who taught it to their children’ repeated across the pages.
This book is necessary, and pertinent, with the Rugby World Cup currently at the front of many people’s minds. Please buy this book for your whanau, and spend time with the younger members to teach them about this important part of their history.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
by Patricia Grace, illustrated by Andrew Burdan
Published by Huia Publishers
A version of this title is available in te reo Maori
Whiti Te Ra!