Our Story

Our name Tokona te Raki comes from a Ngāi Tahu creation tradition written by the renowned tohunga Matiaha Tiramorehu in 1849. His manuscript Te Waiatatanga mai o te Atua tells of how the universe was sung into being. It begins with the various phases of Te Pō (night), Te Ao (day) and Te Kore (the void). From Te Kore comes Te Mākū (dampness) and Māhoranuiatea (the expanse) who give birth to Raki (the sky-father), who has several wives before Papatūānuku (the earth-mother).

Raki had been injured battling Takaroa (the ocean) who was the first husband of Papatūānuku and was clinging closely to her, which meant that the world was a dark and confining space. Raki knew change was needed and asked his sons to kill him so the heavens could be raised and the human race could have life: ‘…if I die then the world will gain light and brightness‘.

Tāne began his karakia to Rehua for strength and worked alongside his younger brother Paia. Tāne used his tokotoko Toko-maunga followed by the tokotoko of Paia, Ruatipua and Ruatawhito..

Ko toko nā wai? Ko toko nā Ruatipua,
Ko toko nā wai? Ko toko nā Ruawhito
He turuturu, he pīnaki, he papare, he aitutonga,
Tēnā toko, tokotoko ka eke, ko toko o tēnei raki

Once Tāne finished the world became bright and full of potential. Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu draws inspiration from this tradition in the whakataukī: ‘Tokona te Raki kia tū, tokona te Raki kia ora‘, likening the act of raising the heavens to the work of whānau transformation. Like the tokotoko of Tāne and Paia, the challenge is to raise the ceilings of possibility and creating the conditions for new light and potential to emerge.

Our work is likened to the concept of Raki Tukutuku. The heavens were woven and bound together like the tukutuku panels of a marae. Our work often involves unweaving and unlearning old ways first, to loosen the bindings so that change and growth can emerge. Once new horizons are set then the task is to reweave the bindings so that the tokotoko are tightly connected and supporting one another – kia tukutuku anō ai te Raki.

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