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Te Porere - The Flag of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, c1860s

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Copyright Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Creator Unidentified
Identifiers Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa number ME000805 TLF resource R2865
Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This is the flag of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (c1832-93), a Māori rebel leader and prophet from Ngati Maru, a hapu (subtribe) of the Rongowhakaata (tribal group) of Gisborne, in the Bay of Plenty area of New Zealand's North Island. The flag features a red-and-black crescent-shaped moon, a red cross and the red letters 'WI'. It is made of wool and cotton stitched to a cotton ground. The symbols are stitched onto the ground fabric using an inlay or applique technique, with the ground fabric cut away to reveal the symbols on the reverse. The flag measures 79.5 cm x 189 cm.

Educational value:
  • This asset is one of the flags of Te Kooti, an occasional supporter of the government, who took the side of the government in its battle with Ngati Maru in 1866 but was accused of collaborating with the enemy and was incarcerated, without trial, on the Chatham Islands with other prisoners - while there, he received what he called his 'divine revelation' in a series of visions and dreams of the Archangel Michael, which gave him the power to rally the prisoners and lead their escape in 1868; back in the North Island, he founded a religion called Ringatu (the upraised hand).
  • It provides an example of symbolism used by Māori at the time - the crescent moon denotes the Old Testament, the red cross is the fighting cross of the Archangel Michael and the letters 'WI' are thought to represent the Holy Spirit, the Wairua Tapu of Te Kooti's Ringatu religion.
  • It suggests that there was importance attached to flying a flag at the time - like the colonial powers, Te Kooti believed that the flag was a symbol of power and allegiance, and he constructed many over the years; other flags made by him were captured in various battles.

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