Starting with the building of Te Poho o Potiki, the central wharenui at Iwitea of Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti, a hapu of Ngati Kahungungu, A Cloak for Tahu explores its taonga, the iwi and hapu identities represented in its the waiata, stories and carvings, its colonial history including experience with the Native Land Court, the traditional histories of this Northern Hawke's Bay area and an overview of the religions to which the people have adhered, particularly Te Kohititanga Marama. Whaanga also investigates issues of cultural identity and contemporary concerns, giving an overview of the industries in which hapu labour has worked (flax mills, farming, freezing works) and examining the exercise of hapu affiliations. This section analyses the strengthening of cultural identity that occurs when people gather to discuss concerns such as environmental and resource management and the impact of new industry on their area (eg, proposals to drill for gas). Though focused on one area, this story has relevance for many other iwi and will have wide appeal. Told from a range of sources such as waiata and whakapapa, it is well illustrated, attractive reading.
Shortlisted for Montana New Zealand Book Awards: History Category 2005.
Mere Whaanga (Ngati Rongomaiwahine, Ngati Kahungungu) lives in Napier. She is a writer, illustrator, historian and academic who may be best known as the author of several extremely successful children's books that have been finalists in book awards, notably The Legend of the Seven Whales, He Pakiwaitara a Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti (1988) and Tangaroa's Gift: Te Koha a Tangaroa (1990). She has an MPhil Maori Studies from Massey University and was awarded the 2001-2002 Ministry of Culture & Heritage Fellowship in Maori History to complete A Cloak for Tahu.