'E kore aia e tikaia': Darwin, Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, and Reading the Bible.
Te Whiti and Tohu were initially lodged in the women's section of Addington Prison in Christchurch and were taken on regular outings around the city, to Oamaru, Dunedin, and Invercargill. There was a suggestion they might travel to England but instead they embarked on a steamer on what can only be described a scenic tour around Bluff, Fiordland, and up the West Coast, ending in Nelson where they stayed for six months, first in a large house in Whakapuaka and later in a more modest residence in town. This period is minutely recorded in a small publication, Wanderings with the Maori Prophets, Te Whiti and Tohu; being Reminiscences of a Twelve Month Companionship with them, from their Arrival in Christchurch in April 1882 to their Return to Parihaka in March 1883 by John P. Ward. (5) Published in Nelson, with illustrations based on photographs Ward himself had taken, (6) it records what now seems a bizarre episode in the history of colonial contestations.
Ward's book is useful as a historical record, though one shaped by his ideological perspective as a servant of Empire. But it is also a literary text--Ward uses the terms 'diary' and 'reminiscence' to describe it, indicating that his readers should expect certain generic qualities: personal and confessional, artless and authentic, it will be a work seemingly done without any thought of publication, a common trope in published diaries: 'I have been advised to publish "our travels'", he writes at one point, 'I shall copy out, but publish, oh dear, no!' (p. 123). Yet publish he did--the book appeared in 1883, less than a year after the end of the episode it describes.
The descriptor 'Wanderings' in Ward's title fits with this incidental and unshaped structure. It is also consistent with colonial literary terminology--the bookshelves of empire are full of works with titles beginning 'Sketches', 'Glimpses', 'Passages', 'Vignettes', 'A Peep into ... '--all conveying their partial and provisional status. But by linking his 'wanderings' with the 'prophets' in his title, Ward is also inviting a comparison with another, biblical form of wandering, that of the Israelites in the Old Testament in search of the Promised Land. In this he is referencing a widespread identification, by Victorian Pakeha scholars as well as Maori Christians, of Maori 'with the Israelites in their bondage to Egypt (Britain), the struggle of the exodus and the covenants with the Israelite ancestors'. (7) In his sermons to the Parihaka community, Te Whiti explained that
the tribes of Israel are the chosen iwi and hapu of contemporary Maori, the twelve tribes of Taranaki and Waikato are a type of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Europeans are gentiles, or tauiwi. Maori were descended from Noah's son Shem and had a fraternal relationship with other such progeny such as the Chinese. (8)
In using these terms in his book's title, and repeatedly referring to Te Whiti and Tohu as 'prophets' within His text, often in mundane and everyday contexts, Ward is both indicating his familiarity with this conventional association and mocking it. In Queenstown, Ward describes Tohu
[having] cakes and coffee and what not, and one of the ladies was so far interested in him that she fed him with her own fair hands. Enviable Tohu! What would I not have given to be a prophet, if only for one short hour, (p. 59)
(Ward regularly and disapprovingly records the attention that women pay Te Whiti and Tohu--when they're out in public, in the various hotels and lodgings they stay at, and while they are in Nelson.) 'I am anxiously waiting to see him in His "seer's clothes" (if he has any)' he writes, 'and how he looks when prophesying, and when I do I will make a note of it' (p. 5). His tone is one of ironically exaggerated respect. Criticism is put in the voice of others. At Bluff 'an old Native resident of one of the islands out in the Straits, and who is evidently quite a little king within His island realm' is recorded as 'delivering] a lecture to the prophets' in a manner Ward describes as 'most edifying and amusing':
'Salutations, TE WHITI AND TOHU', he commenced, 'Salutations. Now don't you think you are great fools? You call yourselves prophets! What rot! There are no such things as prophets nowadays, and I don't think there ever have been. This is the prophet (striking his pocket) that we all believe in now. Don't you think you are an ass, TE WHITI, to talk such rot and nonsense when you know well it was all lies?' (p. 50)
Ward describes himself variously as Te Whiti and Tohu's 'interpreter', 'warder', and 'minister plenipotentiary' (p. 1). His qualifications for the position (one with a not inconsiderable 'screw' of 145 [pounds sterling] a year) are, presumably, his facility in te reo and his military background. A throw-away list of names, places and dates connects him, for the knowing reader, with General Chute, von Tempsky's Forest Rangers and the less creditable incidents of the Taranaki Wars of the 1860s,9 a fact that he does not share with Te Whiti and Tohu:
I did not tell my friends that I was at Waikoko, a village not far from the celebrated Parihaka, and that I first exchanged compliments with my friends' friends in 1866, during General Chute's West Coast campaign. I did not mention Putahi, Ketemarie, or Otapawa, and other engagements during the campaign, or that I was seeking the bubble reputation under Colonels McDonell and Whitmore, in '67, '68, and '69; but I think they could see I was engaged in the (Pakanga) war. (10) (p. 5)
The tone of Ward's account pivots between admiration and ridicule. The position is 'an honour'; he is thrilled to be associated with such a 'magical pair of names'; but his intention is to 'satisfy myself as to whether Te Whiti is a fool or a rogue' (p. 2). He portrays the two men as ignorant of the world outside Parihaka, amusingly credulous, fanatical, arrogant, and driven by superstition. But at the same time, he describes them as principled, dignified, chiefly, and rightly celebrated, 'Nature's own gentleman, in courtesy and manner' (p. 23). He commends Te Whiti's 'thoroughness of purpose also in fighting a losing fight in respect to the lands of his people, for no bribe would ever affect him' and represents him saying 'I have no money; never had any; and I only want my land' (p. 136). Despite his jailer role, Ward wants to be friends with the pair, in the European sense of enjoying a masculine camaraderie, the 'companionship' which his title infers. But he is baffled by aspects of their world-view, which he does not have the tools to decipher: 'Had it not been for his religious mania' he writes, Te Whiti 'would be a rather jolly fellow, but he is very crafty and subtle' (p. 16). Is Te Whiti ignorant and credulous; or is he crafty and subtle? Is Te Whiti 'under the magic spell of his atua' or is he ruled by 'an all-powerful fanaticism'? (p. 25). Overall, Ward's reaction, reflected in the disorder of His text, is confusion.
One of the ways in which Ward's book plays out this conflict centres around the Bible and reflects the diverse ways in which the Bible functioned in the late nineteenth-century empire: as a sacred text; as a focus of private study and reflection; as a tool of conquest and colonisation; as a political text which could be appropriated by the Indigenous colonised; but also, to an educated, secular Victorian, a deeply compromised text, given contemporary advances in science and textual scholarship.
Ward's work reflects these conflicts. Lodged with his charges in Addington Prison, he is concerned for their recreation:
As neither of the prisoners have anything to read, I proposed to get them translations of Robinson Crusoe, and other light literature, but neither of them would hear of it. The books I mentioned were fables, they said (korero nuka), but they would like a Bible (Paipera) very much. [...] I spoke to Mr R. about getting them a Bible each [i.e., a Maori translation--neither man spoke English), and that gentlemen is going to look for one or two, but he hardly knows where to look for them in a place like Christchurch. (p. 7)
'A place like Christchurch' presumably refers to the Pakeha nature of the population rather than any local antipathy to Bibles per se. And Ward's offer of Robinson Crusoe was not arbitrary or idiosyncratic. Defoe's 1719 work had been translated into te reo by Henry Kemp in 1850, reflecting its wide popularity. Shef Rogers notes the manner in which '[f]or the Victorians, Robinson Crusoe took on a new vitality as the symbol of the rugged individualist amid the natives, and the image found its wav into many corners of life',11 although it is difficult to conjecture how an Indigenous reader would approach its Eurocentric narrative. Rogers' suggestion that the novel was read as less an adventure story and more a moral text seems a likely motive for Pakeha translators. There is no record of its reception by Maori--except, perhaps, what can be inferred from Te Whiti and Tohu's dismissal of it as korero nuka.
Parts of the Bible were first translated into te reo in 1827, the entire text being complete by 1868.12 Its significance was profound. Tony Ballantyne writes:
Missionaries labored long and hard, individually and collectively, on the massive project of translating the Bible into te reo Maori with the aspiration of creating a clear and idiomatic rendering of God's word into the local vernacular. This vast undertaking, which took decades, not only reshaped the linguistic underpinnnings of Maori mentalities and transformed Maori political idioms, but also changed the missionaries themselves. (13)
But Ward's account suggests that, even by the 1880s, Bibles in te reo were not common.
Two te reo Bibles are procured from the Maori Mission at Kaiapoi. But Ward is obviously hurt that his 'foolish proposal for light literature' (p. 7) has been so roundly rejected. The Bibles thus come into Ward's text at the request of Te Whiti and Tohu and as an occasion of resentment on the part of Ward, as part of their world view rather than his. Indeed he expresses the view that the two men would be better off talking to him than studying their scriptures:
I had hoped to draw my friend Te Whiti out to tell me what he could do--as a prophet, of course; and I flatter myself that I could have done so in some small way, but now that is all exploded; he is better engaged than in revealing the hidden treasures of his prophetic mind to a sceptical pakeha like myself. What a loss, my dear friend, that book of faith has caused to you, and the world at large, for had I been fortunate to have drawn the prophet out, so to speak, as this ground work of faith, &c., &c., you and all your friends (the world of course), would have been as well informed as myself.
This tension continues. 'They are both highly pleased', Ward writes of the Bibles' arrival, 'and of course ignore me altogether' (p. 19). Later he observes, 'My friends are busy with their Bibles to-day [...] neither of them will profane the Sabbath by asking me any questions' (p. 27). And again, 'We often chat together of an evening, but they are both too much occupied with their Bibles to heed any mundane conversation, except when lady visitors come out here to see them, and then they are all attention' (p. 121).
No fundamentalist, Ward makes it clear that he finds the use Te Whiti makes of His biblical readings absurd but not unusual: 'He is not the first of human kind', he snorts, 'who has, in all ages of Christendom, applied the language of the Bible to his own peculiar ways of thinking and reasoning, and, alas for humanity, it is not likely he will be the last' (p. 27). Ward finds such reliance retrogressive: 'On what absurd foundation his religious tenets must rest, if they have any foundation at all, is painfully apparent' (p. 27).
Ward observes that the two men particularly concentrate on 'the Book of Revelations, and its peculiar language, as well as the wild imagery of Isaiah' (p. 129). Historians have stressed the importance of these books to Te Whiti and Tohu, and to the Maori prophet movements generally. Judith Binney writes that 'in the new world of cross-cultural fertilisation [...] [t]he Israelite tradition became embedded in Maori history, and shaped the actions and understandings of many of its participants'. (14) Paul Morris suggested this can be seen as part of a global network of Indigenous Christianity--Morris calls members of these Indigenous movements '"Old Testament Christians"--but not yet fully Christian'. (15) Yet Ward's description of the two men's style of biblical study is not at all different from the practice of evangelically minded Pakeha. He writes:
A favourite pastime of theirs is reading a verse or two from one to the other, or both, and then commenting on it. Their premises would not suit an orthodox commentator, perhaps, and were only a little less wild than the books quoted from [...]. (p. 129)
In His memoir Father and Son, published in 1907 but looking back to his mid-century childhood, Edmund Gosse describes his English evangelical parents in similar terms, Bible reading and in particular reading these books of the Bible being an act of pleasurable sociability as much as one of faith:
My Father was in the habit of saying, in later years, that no small element in his wedded happiness had been the tact that my Mother and he were of one mind in the interpretation of Sacred Prophecy. Looking back, it appears to me that this unusual mental exercise was almost their only relaxation, and that in their economy it took the place which is taken, in profaner families, by cards or the piano. (16)
The Gosses, records their son, 'had no intention of allowing these [prophetic books] to be merely stimulating to the fancy [...] they regarded them as positive statements, in guarded language, describing events which were to happen'. (17) In a similar manner, Bible-based prophecy for Te Whiti and Tohu is a practical exercise with immediate relevance: Ward writes that 'Tohu is for bringing each case he cites from Holy Writ to bear on passing events' (p. 129). In particular he interprets the comet seen in the skies during 1882 in a general manner as a presage of the destruction of a sinful world by fire, but also as relating to specific contemporary events: as Ward scathingly puts it, 'the promise of a very hot summer, the conquest of the Egyptians, the Maori king's projected tour, and what not' (129).
Gosse's memoir centres on the mid-nineteenth century shift from the certainty of belief to a world which is more secular and modern. In particular, Gosse senior is unable to accommodate his Bible-based fundamentalism with his knowledge of--and attraction to--Darwinian science. Ward sees Te Whiti and Tohu's Bible literalism as similarly retrograde. During their stay in Christchurch, Te Whiti and Tohu are taken to the Provincial Museum and shown round by its 'learned and genial curator', Julius Von Haast, who is, says Ward, 'most assiduous in his attentions and explanations' (p. 10). (One is reminded of the Llama being shown round the Lahore Museum at the beginning of Rudyard Kipling's Kim.) One of the cases contains a display of (stuffed) monkeys and a large gorilla. Ward writes:
[...] Mr Beetham humorously informed them that the gorilla [...] was a not very distant progenitor of mankind, he [Te Whiti] would not believe it. He was very anxious to hold forth and edify us with extracts for Holy Writ to prove the fallacy of the Darwinian theory of evolution, but, not wishing to have a scene, I gently informed the prophet that no person believed the idea; it was a fable (horero whakariti). To which he replied, 'Oh no, there are some people who believe this foolery, but I could prove this all wrong' (meaning, of course, that if he had a Bible he could do so), (p. 10)
Does Ward here mean that the theory of evolution is a fable, korero whakariti, or that the vulgarised version of Darwin, the descent of humans from gorillas, is? Probably, he intends the latter as he tells Te Whiti later that 'I did not for a moment believe such a hideous looking animal as a monkey was in any way related to me' (p. 13). This does not prevent Ward endorsing another popularised branch of Darwinian theory, that of racial evolutionary hierarchies: he tells Te Whiti, 'there are even now some races of men on the earth very low in structure and social forms and ideas, who are indeed little removed from the brute beast; thus proving that we all originally sprung for some low form of animal life [...]' (p. 15). Ward does not stipulate who these 'low races' might be but probably assumes he is not causing offence as Maori were routinely promoted in this hierarchy to a position only just lower than Englishmen. Racial ethnography was a popular pastime in the nineteenth century and Ward is displaying his adeptness.
Surrounded by the fossils of von Haast's collection, Ward finds Te Whin's adherence to the 'old and time-honoured creation theory from the Book of Genesis' (p. 13) disappointing. Evolutionary theory, he tells Te Whiti is 'what a large and influential portion of civilised men do believe in [...]. Men, great men, who have devoted all their life to the subjects we speak about, say there is a deviation from the laws of nature in your great book, the Bible' (p. 15). But it is clear that while Ward is hostile to Te Whiti's Bible-based Christianity, he is also ambivalent about urging Te Whiti to adopt Darwin. He would much prefer, he admits, that Te Whiti offer 'a theory of creation of his own' (p. 13)--that is, an alternative to the European narratives that is romantic, strange, exotic, and ethnographically original. 'But', says Ward, '1 failed. [...] He is for the Bible, and Bible only' (p. 16). Ward wants Te Whiti to be different, but different in prescribed ways that fit within the orientalist stereotype.
Te Whiri and Tohu's time in Christchurch coincided with the 1882 International Exhibition. It ran from April to June and attracted huge crowds--40,000 lined the streets for the opening, with 4,000 in the procession and 10,000 crammed inside to hear the Governor General, Sir Arthur Gordon. Seven countries from Australasia, Europe, and the Americas exhibited manufactured goods of all descriptions, from machinery, carriages, and ironwork to turnip and mangel drills, water-augers, and specimens of calf lymph. There was an Art Gallery with local and international exhibits, from 'a view of Akaroa' to a 'Portrait of Rembrandt, after Rembrandt' (p. 159), as well as the perennial inlaid table of native New Zealand woods (4449 pieces) and copies of Walter Buller's History of the Birds of New Zealand, with both hand-coloured and photographic illustrations. (18) The exhibition handbook contained pages entitled 'Visitors' Notes on Paintings' with columns headed 'Subject', 'Artist', and 'Remarks'. The 'Ladies' Court' contained such items as 'crewel and rug work, tapestry and embroidery', and 'painting on satin or silk' (pp. 53-73). And there was a 'Maori Court' divided into 'Native Ladies' Work'--flax mat, miniature cloak, polished greenstone, shark's tooth earing but also a smoking cap and a tea cosy--and 'Native Gentlemen's Work' of a more practical cast: 'potato sower, fern root crusher, eel spear, whitebait net' (p. 51). Visitors were invited to 'call at the lavatories for a refreshing wash, shampoo, good shave and boots cleaned [...] cleanness, civility, and prompt attention guaranteed'.
The Exhibition was obviously seen by Te Whiti and Tohu's handlers as a convenient site for the display of European progress and achievement. But the impulse to display worked both ways. The two men were celebrities and popular feeling was by no means supportive of John Bryce and the government's actions at Parihaka. Admiring crowds gathered wherever the two men appeared. If the colonial world was performing its particular brand of modernity and material progress for Te Whiti and Tohu, the two men were performing something quite contrary in return.
In keeping with the Exhibition's peculiar blend of boosterism and the fairground there was a cluster of more popular attractions and side-shows adjacent to the more serious displays: Ward mentions the armless woman and Bismarck the talking pig. Messrs Kreitmayer and Woodroffe's pavilion was slightly more edifying, and contained a demonstration of glass blowing and a display of waxworks, including a group representing Moses striking the rock, Aaron his brother, and 'some eight or ten male and female figures are grouped in front, some being kneeling' (p. 24).
As Ward describes it, these waxworks had a profound effect on Te Whiti. He describes him 'ghastly green and yellow, his mouth, which commenced twitching, fell at the corners' (p. 24). It is clear that Te Whiti was not offended by the fact of representation, but by its inaccuracy. Moses, he said, was correct but Aaron the High Priest was not. 'Yes', he said, 'those people (the eight or ten outside figures) are correct; this is Zepheniah, this one Reuben, &c., going on giving names to all the figures, but this one (meaning Aaron) is not correct (e kore aia e tikaia) as I saw him last, but the others are very good' (p. 24).
'As I saw him last' seems to be more than Ward can handle. 'How can a man of your mind lend yourself to such gross nonsense?' he imagines himself saying, 'I am ashamed; I am disgusted; I am--well, at all events, I am not converted to the prophet's way of thinking' (p. 25). Te Whiti has clung to his fundamentalist use of the Bible despite Ward's elegant deployment of the Darwinism of civilised and educated men; he has preferred this syncretism to an archaic system of belief that would play into a romanticised exotic of empire; and, in his dramatic, intensely felt and frankly incomprehensible response to a side-show, as Ward puts it, 'thus exorcised by a group of wax figures dressed up in red and white calico' (p. 25), he has moved out of the structures of understanding that Ward and his fellow jailers have sought to confine him.
(1) Hazel Riseborough, Days of Darkness: The Government and Paribaka, 1878-1884, revised edition (Auckland: Penguin, 2002), p. 193.
(2) Bronwyn Elsmore, Mana from Heaven: A Century of Maori Prophets in New Zealand (Auckland: Reed, 1999), p. 242.
(3) Ron Lambert, 'Taranaki region: Maori-Pakeha conflict', Te Ara--The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en /photograph/25325/the-invasion-of-parihaka (accessed 28 July 2017).
(4) Dick Scott, Ask that Mountain: The Story of Parihaka (Auckland: Raupo, 2008), p. 141.
(5) John P. Ward, Wanderings with the Maori Prophets, Te Whiti and Tohu; being Reminiscences of a Twelve Month Companionship with them, from their Arrival in Christchurch in April 1882 to their Return to Parihaka in March 1883 (Nelson: Bond, Finney and co, 1883). Page numbers to subsequent references are in-text.
(6) In an article in the New Zealand Herald of 27 November 1907, Ward describes the aversion Te Whiti had to having his photograph taken. But he nevertheless admits that 'For the purposes of illustrating my little book [...] I got a surreptitious camera shot at both chiefs in the Rev. Mr. Fairlie's garden, Nile-street, Nelson, in February, 1883', p. 8. These photos are widely reproduced but Ward is not credited.
(7) Mark G. Brett, Decolonising God: The Bible in the Tides of Empire (Sheffield: Phoenix Press, 2008), p. 26; see Judith Binney, Redemption Songs: A Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (Auckland: Auckland University Press and Bridget Williams, 1995), p. 70.
(8) Paul Morris, 'The Provocation of Parihaka: Reflections on Spiritual Resistance in Aotearoa', Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance, eds. Te Miringa Hohaia, Gregory O'Brien, and Lara Strongman (Wellington: City Gallery, Victoria University Press, and Parihaka Pa Trustees, 2001), pp. 110-11.
(9) The tone of the expedition is captured in Gustavus von Tempsky's 1868 painting 'On General Chute's march, West Coast', Te Papa Collection, 1992-0035-1186; see Rebecca Rice, Unsettling: Art and the New Zealand Wars (Wellington: Art History, Victoria University, 2015). 'West Coast' here--and in Ward's text--means Taranaki.
(10) Perhaps Ward's brackets are misplaced here--rather than 'the (Pakanga) war', 'the war (Patanga)' or 'the Patanga (war)' are clearer.
(11) Shef Rogers, 'Crusoe Among the Maori: Translation and Colonial Acculturation in Victorian New Zealand', Book History, vol. 1 (1998), p. 190.
(12) Jane McRae, 'Maori Literature: A Survey', The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature, second edition, ed. Terry Sturm (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 6.
(13) Tony Ballantyne, Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Maori, and the Question of the Body (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2014), p. 5.
(14) Judith Binney, 'Ancestral Voices: Maori Prophet Leaders', The Oxford Illustrated History of New Zealand, new edition, ed. Keith Sinclair (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 154.
(15) Morris, 'The Provocation of Parihaka', p. 106.
(16) Edmund Gosse, Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments (1907), ed. Peter Abbs (London: Penguin, 1983), p. 79.
(17) Gosse, Father and Son, p. 78.
(18) New Zealand International Exhibition, !882: Record, Containing Retrospect of the Colony, Sketch of Exhibitions, Complete Description of Exhibits, ed. M. Mosley (Christchurch: James Cargill, 1882).