Titi Tihu


Another simple portrait.


Another simple portrait of an extraordinary person, February 1984. Titi Tihu, tohunga and rangatira of the Whanganui Iwi, led the Whanganui River Māori Claim from 1938.

After three warm days about Taumarunui, he said I could photograph him now, here, at the confluence of the mighty Whanganui and Ongarue rivers ... he stripped to his shorts, 100-years-old, and strode into the water, turned and held out his arms ... if you misuse this photograph, he said after, “six-foot under”, and thumped his tokotoko on the ground.

“… to recover the mana of The River, and the mana of the ancestors, removed without reason, without agreement, and without justice.” ... excerpt from the 1984 ‘Petition of Titi Tihu to the New Zealand House of Representatives on behalf of Whanganui Iwi’.

The Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill passed through the New Zealand Parliament 14 March 2017.

“Ko āu te Awa, ko te Awa ko āu, I am the river, the river is me.”