I sing of Te Aitu o Te Rangi and the power of song to rejuvenate the principles, values and philosophy of Mana Wahine

Sophronia Smith


I will sing of my tipuna wahine, Te Aitu o Te Rangi, daughter of Rangitane o Wairarapa chief, Te Whatahoronui. She was a beautiful young fourteen year old when the Ngāti Toa Chief Te Rauparaha successfully conquered the area and took her as a slave wife. Two years later Te Aitu and John Jury escaped Kapiti Island, where she was held captive and journeyed on a two man whaling boat back to Wairarapa. She was courageous amidst impending death on the turbulent waters of Wairarapa. She was also the mother of one of the most prolific writers, researchers and academic from Wairarapa, Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury, whose work ensured the preservation of knowledge regarding kauwae runga kauwae raro. In performing original contemporary composition, I celebrate the accomplishments of Te Aitu o Te Rangi, a Tuawahine, and I recall and embody the power of my matrilineal genealogy. Mana wahine stands strong in the spaces where feminist discourse continues to dominate, and composition provides a platform on which to reclaim and rewrite difference. My paper will look at the medium of contemporary music to provoke recognition and critique of the western archetype of the heroine, whilst at the same time advocating for social change.

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