Book Review: Words of a Kaumātua by Haare Williams

Book Review: Words of a Kaumātua by Haare Williams

A compelling, rich and lush blend of essay, poetry, reflections and personal stories by one of New Zealand’s most preeminent Māori writers.

I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Haare Williams before picking up this book in Te Papa Museum in Wellington. This is a definitive collection of Māori wisdom that is equally at home on the bedside table of New Zealanders (Pākehā and Māori) as well a companion guide to Māori life an identity for more recent migrants to Aotearoa who are seeking to understand the true nature and soul of what it means to be Māori.

I would say that by extension of reading this book, you will also discover your own spiritual connection to time, place, people and community wherever you are – also known as tūrangawaeware. There is a spiritual weight and heft to this book that is capable of eliciting gasped intakes of breathe at the beauty of the language Williams uses.

His words are richly and delicately woven like harakeke (flax) with the meaning, soul and mauri essence of what it means to be Māori in the world in the 21st Century. The storytelling and prose in ‘Words of a Kaumātua’ are broad-stroke enough to resonate with anyone living anywhere in the world, with a love of amazing and evocative writing. If you enjoy reading about culture, history, family and the ancient ties that bind us all in to place, people and memory, then you will love this book.

Book Review: Words of a Kaumātua by Haare Williams

Even if you don’t have whānau (family) and tīpuna (ancestry) here in New Zealand, you will treasure this book. Written in both Te Reo Māori and English, sounding out the Te Reo words is a real treat for the senses.

This is a timeless collection of sweeping essays, personal stories, karakia (prayers) and lamentations on everything from earthy, evocative landscapes, the ancient patheon of capricious gods including Tāne and Tangaroa, the Treaty of Waitangi, the Māori Land Wars, modern love, family and everything else in between. Highly recommended.

Whakarongo ki te Au

Our truth is this:

We come from the sea

this is where our bones lie

not on the summits of


Hawaiki nui Hawaiki roa

Is our ancestral Pacific land

and its location in history

can only be found in legend

yielding only to the sea’s


Uncovering my past using DNA and records
Te Kuri o Pāoa – Young Nick’s Head in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa. Copyright Content Catnip 2014

Listen to an interview with him on RNZ about Words of a Kaumātua

Read more and purchase from Auckland University Press or from Te Papa Museum shop.

Haare Williams: A Child of the Community on e-Tangata

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Words of a Kaumātua by Haare Williams

  1. Ah splendid! With the right marketing and designers I wonder if a book like this could find an international market. Those danish/finish/swedish/japanese philosophical concepts spread far and wide. Perhaps these could too?


    1. Yeah I have been pretty fast and loose with copying out some of the profound insights and prose in this book and going to share them on this blog, so you will see more of that coming up – with references and credit given back to Haare Williams of course. The real essence of what it means to be Māori and these deep concepts of manaakitanga (hospitality and aroha), kaitiakitanga (guardianship of the sky, sea and land) and kotahitanga (togetherness, community) all mean lot of things to a lot of people they just don’t have the words in English to describe them but Te Āo Māori (the Māori world) have these concepts embedded in there and they are transferrable to all people everywhere. I really hope many other people read this book, it’s fantastic! Haven’t seen many other reviews out there, but definitely worth getting and the kind of book that could go global with the right marketing for sure.


      1. Beautiful concepts that can be readily understood, I think. The little I studied when doing my online NZ teacher refresher course made a very positive impression


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