Author(s): Judith Binney
Winner of the 1996 Montana New Zealand Books Awards.
'Wherever Te Kooti went - wherever he step foot from one area to another - he's singing'
Redemption Songs traces the songs, the narratives and the pathways by which the 19th-century leader Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tutuki sought to give the land and his people new life.
Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki was one of the best-known Maori leaders of the 19th century. Today he is remembered mostly as a guerrilla fighter; a feared opponent of colonial forces with a price on his head. The stereotype does him little justice. Throughout his adult life, in both war and peace, he sought to redeem his people and the land. He founded the Ringatu church, which continues to this day.
The causes of Te Kooti's struggles are larger than personal injustice; he fought a war against land confiscation and illegal land purchases. Though frequently described as a murderer, he limited his attacks - even the most notorious, at Matawhero, Poverty Bay in 1868 - to specific targets for precise reasons.
In the difficult time for Maori after the wars of the 1860s and early 1870s, Te Kooti was committed to the cause of peace and to working through the law. He engendered a renewal of Maori pride, which can be seen in the great painted meeting-houses whose construction he often directed. He worked to ensure that the leaders of Maori communities listened to the voices of their own people - not simply responding to their own interests, or to those of the colonisers. He was an extraordinary figure, a man of enormous vitality and large paradoxes.
Judith Binney has drawn on numerous sources in writing this book. Traces of Te Kooti's many journeys remain throughout the North Island, and he left many records of his remarkable life not only in government files but in personal letters and dairies, as well as in songs, stories and sayings among his own people in many places.
Redemption Songs started from discussions with Ringatu leaders. Judith Binney was given access to documents compiled and kept within several branches of the faith. The biography conveys the Ringatu perspectives alongside a fresh account of major events in New Zealand's 19th-century history.
Redemption Songs allows its subject to emerge from the shadows which have kept him veiled for more than 100 years.
Winner of Montana New Zealand Book of the Year Award 1996.