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7ENG - The Whale Rider: Home

This guide contains resources related to the study of 'The Whale Rider' by Witi Ihimaera

Witi Ihimaera

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Witi Ihimaera, born February 7, 1944, in Waituhi, near Gisborne, New Zealand. Maori author whose novels and short stories explore the clash between Maori and Pakeha (white, European-derived) cultural values in his native New Zealand.

Witi Ihimaera. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

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About the book

Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary "whale rider." In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, it is Kahu who saves the tribe when she reveals that she has the whale rider's ancient gift of communicating with whales.

Goodreads Inc, 2016. 

Maori Culture

The Maori have a rich culture, steeped in tradition and legend. Legend is passed down through the generations by story telling - stories that tell of the creation of the islands of New Zealand and much more.

Maraes, (communal "plaza" areas where the Maori people meet), provide a focus for social, cultural and spiritual life within the Maori community. The Marae includes awharenui (meeting house) and wharekai (dining room).

Maori people define themselves by their tribe, or iwi. Family is very important within the Maori culture, and encompasses immediate family, in-laws and all those connected by blood ties.

Dance for the Maori people is a very important part of their culture. Kapa haka (Maori performance art), incorporates singing, dancing and facial expressions. Each action within the dance has a meaning, tying it to the words. The traditional Maori war dance, known as the haka, is performed by the All Blacks (the National Rugby Team), before each game.

Love New Zealand, 2016.

Feature Film

Castle-Hughes in 2002’s Whale Rider. From Snap Stills/REX Shutterstock.

Keisha Castle-Hughes was born on March 24, 1990 in Donnybrook, Western Australia. 

Reader's book review