Leading up to Parihaka Day November 5th: Today, The Mayors’ Story

The Mayors’ Story

A Mayors’ story too is now added when in his efforts
to create, within his districts’ jurisdiction, a Maori ward;
for like many districts it is claimed they lag behind in their
legal responsibility: Yet he is spat on, discredited, forced
from office. So that, as he resigns as Mayor, Andrew Judd
suggests a walk to Parihaki in order to “leave new footprints
for tomorrow”. How many times around our Islands will we
walk before the politician do the hard yards and set things
to rights?

I add him to the list of names: Andrew Judd. among many
who work passively for justice. But how difficult is this, when,
on leaving office he has reported that a National politician told him
(and I quote from the Editorial by Murray Edmond in ‘kai mate ka ora’
a New Zealand journal of poetry and poetics, Issue 14) “The loser must
follow the laws of the victor”. And, Edmond goes on to say: “This gives
some indication of how Te Tiriti o Waitangi is actually regarded by
the power elite.”

Shame on our government. Shame, Shame, Shame.

Benita H. Kape © 1.11.2016


Parihaka Day – November 5th (1881)

A Story Shared

It was 1948 with the assassination of Gandhi
our neighbour spoke, just that once, of pacifism,
sharing the story of white feathers and children:
Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, Tohu Kakahi and Gandhi.
Gandhi, who, took his own road to pacifism.

With my neighbour I talked about Te Whiti and Tohu and Parihaka.
And had she a fear for her father? Did he become one of the volunteers
when Maori from near and far moved in to give support to leaders
who held high hope for a formula of passive resistance? Who made
their peaceable gestures; ploughing the land again and again.

The press; reporters who today we would call whistle blowers:
all banned, yet who, in secret made their way in and were given
a whare from where they wrote –

“The whole spectacle {was} saddening in the extreme.” *

With my neighbour I talk about Gandhi.

A quiet woman, with a love of literature. She would
also have read, the poet Jessie MacKay who, along with
many others, roundly called out the Parihaka scene –

“Children to the left of them.
Children to the right of them.” **
Little girls with skipping ropes; out at Parihaka.

Not to be wondered at, how the now, sad old face,
dark bun pulled severely back from her head,
made so poignant a picture. She who was past
childhood: she had moved on as we as a nation
grapple to move on and yet governments can’t
seem to help themselves in still serving out wrong.
An old woman had, a story shared, and despaired.
Yes, she had feared her father, and failed to comprehend
how he forbade innocent friendships made on fields she never
fully regarded as her father’s; friendships she sought
to defend. I saw the look in her eyes, the sadness we feel.
Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, Tohu Kakahi and Gandhi.
The world knows Gandhi, but the world should know
he walked thus, in the steps of Maori Leaders,
Tohu and Te Whiti.

Benita H. Kape © 15.1.2016

* Lyttleton Times reporters 2 of 5 reporters, all press having been banned, and only official(?) news items were to be released. Accounts of which appear first in “Parihaka Invaded” by Dick Scott, later expanded upon to become the book “Ask That Mountain”.

** Jessie Mackay poem The Charge At Parihaka.


A Small Precis

Yesterday I read an article by the journalist Adam Dudding in which the brilliant New Zealand Photographer Marti Friedlander said that taking a photograph was like a poet doing a small precis of a poem. This is my poem in response to this wonderful and much loved artist.

Small Precis for a Big-Hearted Woman
To: Marti Friedlander

I look at you behind the camera around 1958;
could even be a little later. Like you say,
your energy and vitality.

I look at you behind someone else’s lense
fifty eight years on. And none of us
looking at you would say
anything within your nature
has much changed.

For you are handing out this legacy;
even as you receive an Honorary Doctorate;
to each and everyone whom you believe
have capabilities. Your courage is enormous.

It is this dedication and love of life
with which you so rewarded us.
The button is pressed. A marvellous
photograph taken.

Benita H. Kape © 24.10.2016


Shoe Shopping

Winter school holidays—my two great-grandsons are in town to stay with their Dad. I take them, as I do every year, to the movies. And then we go shopping—a few clothes and always a pair of brand new shoes.


early spring

following a plow barefoot

planting potatoes


Times were hard. A large garden plot near the house supported the family. But in order to stretch the budget just that bit further my father grew seasonal crops. If we were big enough to bend and pick up a potato, we were big enough to put it in a sack. Some years we planted onions on the shortest day of the year. On the longest day, we helped our father and siblings harvest them. Another time the crop my father planted would be peas. He would provide much of these harvests to the grocers in the two local townships. But on occasion, he dealt these vegetables to his neighbours for items of use for his family.


carried to bed—

new second-hand, toe-worn

shoes and tears

by Benita Kape

Gisborne, New Zealand

This poem is published online at Haibun Today (archives)