Content warning: Discussion of war, death and indigenous culture. I mean no disrespect to the Maori people of New Zealand, espeicially the members of the Nagti Toa tibe, whose haka I have used within.
The Last Haka
We advanced forward - the fighting was terrible - but we barely paused in our advance. Six of the stronger boys, Maoris, they were, broke on ahead as we fought our way upwards. The Turks guns fired faster, but once ours were loaded we had twice the number of bullets they did and it showed. Then, as we came up another ridge, the unthinkable happened. Whether it was a planned ambush or we were unlucky I couldn't tell you, but the men were suddenly split in two: those men who had charged ahead, the Maoris, were on the other side of a solid wall of Turks.
They fought on; for some time it seemed they might come through. Their position was such that the Turks could not swarm it, but could only come in small lots, each side taking shots, returning them. Those boys performed admirably, I tell you. We kept moving, trying to reinforce them, but the Turks wouldn't budge. It seemed that they were determined for us to get no further up the beach and they dug in gamely, like mules they stubbornly refused to move.
Then it happened, our boys in the hill stopped loading their guns. Ammunition spent they now had two choices: surrender or die. We could never get to them, though that did not stop us from trying. From above, we saw one man throw down his gun and, with heavy heart, we saw his fellows copy: they were to surrender.
Then, from the throats of these men came the most terrible sound, a roaring, vibrating cry, started by one man and then continued by his fellows and their words echoed over the beach, distinguishable even over the terrible gunfire and the screams of dying men.
"Ka mate, ka mate! Ka ora, Ka ora!
Ka mate, ka mata! Ka ora, ka ora!"
They pounded upon their legs and slapped their arms, standing their ground and pulling those grotesque faces as they are apt to do when they cry their war chant. The Turks facing them were greatly taken back, confused at this show of defiance from these unarmed men. They continued to chant, beating upon their bodies and refusing to flee. I had never seen the like in all my life, for men to face death in all its terror and be not cowered, but stand before him and challenge him, to dare death to come.
Though the Turks were not to be subdued for long. The order came and those of us trapped in the bloody melee below could do nothing to help as shots were fired and our men above fell, their war chants silenced by the terrible blast of the Turks guns.
Author's Note: This is a short story I wrote based on a story I read today at the Gallipoli Exhibition in Te Papa in New Zealand. During an advance, a small group of Maori men from the Wellington Division advanced slightly ahead of their men as they were fighting and ended up cut off by Turkish soldiers. They were briefly able to hold back the Turks, however eventually ran out of ammunition. As they were cut off from their unit, who were fighting below, they had no back-up and no way to get more ammunition. They were visible to their men below and were seen throwing aside their guns as Turkish soldiers advanced on them. Their men originally thought the Maori soldiers were planning to surrender, but instead these men stood their ground and began performing the haka. The Turkish soldiers were initially taken aback, but minutes later had fired on the six, brave Maoris, killing all of them. The rest of the Wellington Division who had partaken in that advance were driven back to their lines and those six brave men, like so many, many others in Gallipoli, lie in unknown, unmarked graves there.
It was not recorded which iwi (tribe) the men belonged to or which haka they preformed (each of the many Maori iwis in New Zealand had their own, distinct haka, or sometimes many), so for this story I have chosen to use the well known Ka Mate Haka, which is performed at various official events in New Zealand and, most famously, by the All Blacks before a rugby game. The Ka Mate was composed by Te Rauparaha, the chief of the Ngati Toa iwi, in around 1820. The Ka Mate remains sacred to the Ngati Toa people and I would like to acknowledge this and their spiritual and cultural ownership of this haka and their connection to it. The soldiers in this story may have been Ngati Toa people, as Wellington is within traditional Ngati Toa lands, or they may have been from elsewhere, belonged to other iwis and performed a different haka. It was simply recorded in the exhibit that the men stood their ground and performed a haka, so I hope they, their people and their descendants will forgive me if I have used the wrong one.
Reading this story at the exhibit today was deeply moving and I cannot imagine the terror these men must have felt when they realised they were out of ammunition, or what bravery it must have taken to hold their ground at the end and make that final, determined stand for their culture.
I wrote this story as if a soldier from the Wellington Division who survived the battle was writing about it in a letter home to his family. I would love to know what you thought of it, so please feel free to leave me a 'review' on the comments below.
Who would have thought that you could find all these things at the New Zealand Parliament? I know, right!
Well, you won't find an actual beehive, but you will find the executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament which is called The Beehive. See if you can guess why.
The Beehive was built in the 1970s and designed by a British architect, Sir Basil Spence, who had the vision of a round building. At the time it was extremely controversial, with some in New Zealand even calling the suggestion of a round building 'outrageous'. Now, however, it is hard to imagine the Wellington skyline without it.
The Beehive is mainly offices and the banquet hall, where official functions and parties are held, and the wooden floors bear the marks of hundred of heels from innumerable functions. The Prime Minister (currently Jacinda Arden) and other parliamentary executives have their offices here, some have their offices in Old Parliament House (see the photo below) and others have theirs in Bowen House, across the road from the Beehive.
As Wellington is a city prone to wind and rain (and I mean a LOT of wind and a LOT of rain), a tunnel was built in between Bowen House and Old Parliament House (where the Debating Chamber is located) so that MPs did not have their hair and clothes soaked or destroyed crossing the road between Bowen House and Old Parliament House.
Old Parliament House is a beautiful structure, made entirely of marble quarried from the South Island of New Zealand. It is the second oldest of the parliament buildings still standing and the original Parliament House was constructed on this site after it was agreed in 1865 to move Parliament from Auckland to Wellington.
The original building, built shortly after July 1865, was wooden and was destroyed in a fire in 1907. It burned completely to the ground and nothing was able to be salvaged. In 1912, construction began on a new building (Old Parliament House), which would not burn. Despite being started in 1912, Old Parliament House wasn't finished until 1922, as many of the labourers building it went away to fight in the first world war. Many never returned, while some returned with injuries (physical and mental) that meant they could no longer do the heavy work required. A new workforce had to be hired, both to build and to quarry to marble needed for the construction.
The inside is beautiful. The entire building was restored in 1991, where many of the original artworks and finishings that would have been present in the original construction of 1920 were brought back. Unfortunately, for security reasons, you have to hand in your mobile phone and any cameras or recording devices before you go on tour, so there are no photos of the inside of these magnificent buildings.
Old Parliament House is full of beautiful artwork, beautiful stained glass windows, glass domes and an original, working elevator from 1922!
It was also in Old Parliament House that, in 1893, a bill was passed giving women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. New Zealand was the first country to give its women the right to vote, but the story of the suffragette behind it all is rather entertaining.
The woman in question was Kate Sheppard, and she spearheaded the efforts that eventually led to woman gaining suffrage in New Zealand. However, unlike other suffragettes, she did not act because she believed woman should have more freedoms from their husbands, or because she felt they deserved a say in their country.
Ms. Sheppard was the head of the Christian Women's Temperance League, and (among other things) wanted Prohibition passed in New Zealand. Prohibition had been introduced several times to the house and failed, and Ms. Sheppard felt it was more likely to pass if women had the vote. It must also be noted that Ms. Sheppard certainly wasn't campaigning for universal female suffrage, she believed the vote for women should be restricted to 'married ladies of good standing and character, with acceptable morals and strong, Christian principles', for those of you not versed in history-speak, it means white women, married to white husbands, with money, either from Britain or born to British parents, who worshipped at a protestant church.
New Zealand has been a world leader when it comes to voting rights. Parliament in New Zealand met for the first time in 1853. In 1867 Maori men were granted universal suffrage, while European (white) men did not succeed in gaining universal suffrage in New Zealand until 1879. Prior to 1879, only white men owning a certain amount of land or commanding a certain amount of wealth were eligible for the vote, so you can imagine who was calling all the shots. Given this background, it is not so surprising that Ms. Sheppard moved forward with her movement to gain women the vote.
It came in the form of a petition, which she and others travelled around the country gaining signatures on, demanding that women be given the right to vote. It was not only signed by women, a great many men signed as well, until it gained so many signatures that it could not be ignored. A vote was triggered and the day was won for universal women's suffrage. Despite Ms. Sheppard's views on what type of women were suitable to vote, suffrage was granted to all women in New Zealand and, as for her hopes that women gaining the vote would bring in prohibition, no vote for prohibition was ever successful in New Zealand.
Now, I know by this point you're probably thinking, we've had the Beehive, we've had the suffragette, so what about that lucky elephant? Don't worry, we're getting there.
The Library, pictured above, is the oldest of all the Parliament buildings. It was damaged in the fire of 1907 which destroyed the original parliament house, but survived as it was made of stone. Some internal walls did have to be rebuilt, however the structure itself is still original. Sitting near the entrance of the library is the Teak Elephant. The Elephant was a gift to a former Prime Minister of New Zealand from the late Kind of Thailand, and is rubbed for good luck by passing MPs, staff, visitors, guests and visiting dignitaries. The Prime Minister who received the elephant from the late Thai King rubbed the elephant's head everyday and won four consecutive elections, although debate still rages in the halls of Parliament whether or not that was luck or good policy. The Teak Elephant is the only piece of artwork in any of the three Parliament buildings you are allowed to touch.
So there you have it, a brief overview of my tour of New Zealand's Parliament. As I said, due to security reasons, any devices capable of photographing or recording cannot be taken on the tour and photography is strictly prohibited inside Parliament house, but, in some ways, this made it all the more exciting. Rather than swinging my camera around to try and capture everything I could, I got a chance to really look at the buildings, the artwork, the rooms, and listen with full attention to the wonderful stories our guide shared with us. It also means I went in with no idea of what to expect, so went in with any open mind. I highly recommend this tour of any locals or visitors to Wellington. It's an hour well spent.
Tour of New Zealand's Parliament (Paremata Aotearoa)
Location: Tour begins and ends at Old Parliament House, come in through the Visitors Entrance and go through security before checking in for your tour.
Time: Tours run every hour from 10.00am - 4.00pm. Booking reccomended.
Duration: One hour
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