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Adams, Mark Bentley (New Zealand, b.1949)
The Kaiapohia Monument

This stark monument, completed in 1899, stands by the remains of the southern battlements of the great Kaiapoi pa, 'sold ' by Ngati Toa to Governor Grey in 1847 under the Wairau Purchase. The pa was founded about the year AD1700 by Tuahuriri's son Turakautahi, who predicted that the natural local food supply of eels and waterfowl could be successfully augmented by food 'swung in' from the surrounding countryside. Hence the pa was called Kai-a-poi. The control of the West Coast pounamu by Ngai Tuahiriri's close relatives the Poutini Ngai Tahu soon made Kaiapoi the greatest pounamu-trading centre in the land. The pa was surrounded on three sides by deep swamp, giving canoe access to a hapua (lagoon) on the Rakahuri (Ashley) River. Only the southern defences of the pa faced dry land.

The Kaiapoi pa was destroyed by Te Rauparaha's forces after a long siege in 1832 , to avenge the killing of some of his relatives there two years before. The siege ended when the southern battlements were breached by fire, fanned by a strong southerly wind. The defenders perished or were taken into captivity, except for those who escaped through the swamp. Among those who escaped were the tohunga (learned man) Karaki and his young son Tiramorehu , later to become one of the most prominent chiefs of Ngai Tuahuriri and the most distinguished Ngai Tahu tohunga of his generation.

When Te Rauparaha in the North Island was preparing his final expedition against Kaiapoi, a tohunga belonging to one of his allied tribes, Te Ati Awa, went into a trance and prophesied that Te Rauparaha would see 'fire' on ' the crimson flat of Kaiapohia'. The expression 'Kaiapohia' was a pun of great significance, implying 'bodies piled up to be eaten'. It was thus in effect a powerful curse against the people of Kaiapoi. Ngati Toa and their allies adopted this expression and there­after always referred to Kaiapoi as 'Kaiapohia'. Thus when Tamihana Te Rauparaha took down his father's life story in 1845, he wrote 'Kaiapohia' for Kaiapoi throughout the manuscript. Tamihana also evidently used the name Kaiapohia when recounting his father's exploits to Edward Shortland, Bishop Selwyn, and James West Stack - who was later to become Anglican missioner at Tuahiwi.

In 1893, after he had left Tuahiwi, Stack published his book Kaiapohia: the Story of a Siege. He claimed (without giving any evidence) that Kaiapohia was the original and proper Ngai Tahu name for Kaiapoi, ' used on all formal occasions' , and he urged his readers to adopt Kaiapohia in preference to Kaiapoi, which he said was ' unmusical' . However, no one before Stack had reported Kaiapohia being used by Ngai Tahu , and the name was ridiculed by Ngai Tahu elders. Teone Taare Tikao in Tikao Talks (1939) said that 'the name was never Kaiapohia' . It was purely a North Island invention, said Tikao, and ' no self-respecting South Islander ' would use it. However, since Stack's time most writers have referred to the old pa as Kaiapohia.

In 1898 Stack organised the erection of a monument on the old Kaiapoi pa site, to be unveiled by Prime Minister Richard Seddon the following year. Stack had the name Kaiapohia engraved in the inscription. Thus the North Island curse coined in 1832 came to rest on the sacred mound of Ngai Tuahuriri.

Text by Harry Evison, from 'Land of Memories',1993.
silver bromide photograph
203 x 254 mm
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1994 by the artist.

not on view

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