Roimata Toroa

Tears of the Albatros

  • Natalie Robertson Auckland University of Technology
Keywords: Rena disaster, Astrolabe reef, Tauranga Harbour


I n Te Ao Mãori, the Toroa (albatross) is sacred. Roimata Toroa, albatross tears, is a widely used tukutuku pattern. Derived from the Te Tairawhiti Ngati Porou story of Pourangahua, the pattern speaks of the
misadventures of travelers who take shortcuts in haste to get to port. Pourangahua was an agriculturist who traveling a return journey to Aotearoa to grow kumara, gifted to him by Ruakapenga, a tohunga and learned scientist. Lent two pet albatrosses, Harongarangi and Tiungarangi, by Ruakapenga, Pourangahua is given strict instructions on which hazards to avoid, the care of the birds, and a karakia to give thanksgiving for their safe return. In his hurriedness to see his wife Kaniowai, Pourangahua takes a shortcut, runs into a taniwha (a denotation of hazards), and forgets the karakia and fails to care for the birds,
leading to their grief and eventual demise. Realising he has dishonoured Ruakapenga, Pourangahua tries to cover his mistake, by belatedly doing the karakia, but it is too late. The damage was done...