Every Picture Tells a Story: The Maori legend of two sisters Rehutai and Tangimoana

Bronwyn Waipuka - Rehutai and Tangimoana

This painting by Bronwyn Waipuka illustrates a story by Wairarapa kaumātua (elder) Mita Carter. Rehutai and Tangimoana were beautiful twin sisters who lived on the banks of the Ruamāhanga River. They both fell in love with Rautoroa, a handsome warrior, but he could not decide which to marry. Rehutai asked Tangimoana to fetch some water from a pool, but she refused, not wanting to leave her sister alone with Rautoroa. He then asked both girls to get water – but when they reached the pool, Tangimoana pretended to trip, muddying the water, and ran back to the warrior. Rehutai had to wait for the pool to settle before filling her gourd. When she returned, she found her sister wearing Rautoroa’s cloak, which made her his wife. The distressed Rehutai went and hid, weeping bitterly. At dawn she climbed up a hill, into the clouds, and was never seen again. The hill is now known as Ōhine-mokemoke – the place of the lonely girl.

Bronwyn Waipuka - Rehutai and Tangimoana

Read more: Te Ara the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Much of my inspiration for my Maori themed paintings have come from my Maori background and heritage, especially the stories that are specific to the Wairarapa area because this is where my tribal roots lie. At the time, I felt there was a real need to expose and preserve these stories for younger generations. I was worried these great stories would be forgotten. Giving each story a face, a visual imagery so they were easily remembered, meant I was helping to keep them alive. And I’m glad I did make that decision and put in all the hours and effort, because certain works have now become taonga (treasures) which my Whanau (family) and wider Whanau are very proud to be connected with.

Bronwyn Waipuka, Artist

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