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Kahe Te Rau-o-te-rangi was the daughter of Te Matoha (Ngāti Toa) and Te Hautonga (Ngāti Mutunga, Te Āti Awa). She walked with Te Rauparaha on Ngāti Toa’s long migration from Kawhia all the way down to Kāpiti Island. Several years later, while living on Kāpiti Island, she was warned by her attendant of an ominous vision, in which he had seen an invading army assembling and advancing on the island in their waka. After several days of waiting, this vision was confirmed to be true. Kahe consulted the tohunga, who told her to swim unseen to the mainland in order to raise the alarm and bring reinforcements. She strapped her young child Ripeka on a thick mat of raupo and swam the 6 km from Kāpiti Island to Te Uruhi, south of Waikanae mouth. There she raised the alarm, although when reinforcements arrived at Kāpiti, the invaders had already been seen off.
In commemoration of her epic swim, the stretch of water between Kāpiti and the mainland is now known as Te Rau-o-te-rangi. This piece for solo piano evokes the dance of light on this stretch of sea, especially in the evening when the sun has set.
Later in her life, Kahe was one of five women who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi; she gave her agreement on 29 April 1840 when Henry Williams brought a copy of the treaty to the Wellington area. Like Te Rangitopeora, another woman who signed the treaty, Kahe was regarded by the Maori signatories and Pakeha negotiators as a leader with mana.
This piece was written for Elizabeth Ker in commemoration of her 10 years as chair of the SOUNZ Board. The piece ties together her mana wāhine, her engagement with te ao Māori, and her home in Waikanae. It was premiered by Emma Sayers at the Adam Concert Room in December 2019.
to Elizabeth Kerr