Tuīni Ngāwai

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Tuīni Ngāwai

Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare, Ngāti Porou

Moetū Haangū Ngāwai was born near Tokomaru Bay in 1910, one of two twin girls. However, her sister died before the age of one, so she received the name Tuīni or Twin, in remembrance of her sister.

From a young age she began writing waiata, and came to the attention of Ngāti Porou leader Sir Apirana Ngata. She wrote lyrics in te reo Māori which reflected current events and the concerns of Māori, especially from Te Tai Rāwhiti.  

When World War Two began, she formed a concert party Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū to support the men of the newly formed 28th Māori Battalion. Her lyrics also spoke to the men who were leaving as in Arohaina mai e te Kīngi nui which was sung at the Battalion's departure in 1940 and quickly became a favourite waiata with Māori.  

After the war, Tuīni taught waiata and kapa haka to school students in the region and continued writing songs, often about the life of shearing gangs around East Cape. In this radio interview from the early 1960s, she talks about the themes of her compositions. Her words are translated by her niece and fellow composer Te Kumeroa Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi.

Find out more about Tuīni Ngāwai:  

Listen to a recording of Sir Apirana Ngata talking about two of the more famous waiata composed by Ngāwai and favourites of the 28th Māori Battalion during World War Two. 

Watch Te Hokowhitu-a-Tumatauenga: Composers of Genius , a three-part series on the work of Tuīni and her group Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū.

Image: Courtesy Tairāwhiti Museum Te Whare Taonga O Te Tairāwhiti Ref: 020-3-16_NGAWAI_Tuini.

Catalogue Reference 48957

Year 1964


Translator: Ngoi Pēwhairangi
Interviewer: Leo Fowler,

Excerpt: 00:01:22

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