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Kepa Ehau

Master speech-maker

Ngāti Whakaue

It probably wasn’t a surprise to his whānau that Kēpa Hamuera Anaha Ehau turned out to be such an exceptional learner and leader. He was descended from many notable ancestors, including a respected Te Arawa tohunga and an important Ngāti Tarāwhai leader and carver. His parents were followers of the famous Te Kooti religious leader and the Ringatū faith at the time Kēpa was born in 1885. Te Kooti baptised him with the name Te Ngarara a Te Kooti, so perhaps he was always destined for an interesting life.
Kēpa was an excellent student and was particularly talented in language, learning a lot of poetry by heart.  This was the perfect skill to help him become a law clerk and an interpreter. Later he left New Zealand and eventually became a lieutenant in the First World War but his love of learning was always with him.  Even though he was badly injured overseas (which meant that he had to be in a wheelchair later in life), he still managed to keep learning and by the time he returned to New Zealand he was able to speak French, German and Italian.
After he had been living in Rotorua again, he became an important local leader.  He used his language skills and knowledge of whakapapa and the law to become an expert in Māori land law and many important people of the day respected his knowledge.
Kēpa achieved many things.  He helped to create a scenic reserve around Lake Okataina for all people to enjoy and he raised money to support Māori soldiers returning from war.  But, the most important skill he is remembered for is his skill as a very special speaker or orator. He was so highly thought of that he was even given the job of welcoming Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Rotorua in 1954.  The love of poetry he picked up as a young student stayed with him throughout his life and helped to make him the fine speaker he was.
Can you imagine a hushed crowd of people listening as carefully as they could to the man who would speak to them using poetry by Shakespeare, traditional Māori and French language all in the one stirring speech?

Qualities: scholarship, diligence

Here’s a tip:


We can still hear the power of Kēpa Ehau’s voice by listening to him give a poroporoaki

(a speech given about someone who has died) to Bishop Frederick Augustus Bennett in te Reo Māori

from the Radio New Zealand archives:

More to read:

From Rotorua Library:

Te kaka tarahae: he kohikohinga pakiwaitara, poroporoaki hoki (Kepa Hamuera Anaha Ehau)

Kepa Ehau me ōna hononga: Kepa Ehau and his affiliations (Darrell Guy Rangitihi Pene)


More to listen to:

Hear a recording of Kēpa Ehau paying tribute to the Right Honourable Peter Fraser, former Prime Minister of New Zealand following his death in 1950:

A recording of an earlier address Kēpa made to the Right Honourable Peter Fraser:

A recording of the opening of Tamatekapua Meeting House at Ōhinemutu in 1943 in which Kēpa Ehau acts as translator:


This entry is related to these other entries:

Frederick Augustus Bennett


Sources: (accessed 19 June 2018)

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