Topic: Ani Kuka (1840-1942)
In 1993 the Local History Staff of Tauranga District Libraries (as it was called then) compiled a booklet Mana Wahine highlighting the prominent women in the Tauranga Moana area. This is one of the mini biographies from the booklet. Note that some comments in the text relate to the time of the original publication (1993).
Ani was born in 1840 in Hobart Town, Australia. Her mother (Ngarae) was the daughter of the chief of the Ngai Tauaiti, a hapu of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe that lived on Matakana Island. Her father was Captain Johnson, the owner of an early trading cutter which regularly visited Matakana to load kumara.
For a short time Ngarae and the captain lived in Tauranga, until Capt Johnson was appointed Harbourmaster at Hobart Town, Australia. And so the couple moved there.
Ani, her sisters and a brother were born in Australia. They were not very old when their father and sister Harete drowned in a boating accident off Brunei Island, near Hobart. It was after this incident that their mother decided to return to her family back on Matakana Island, New Zealand.
Transport was difficult in those days. It was six months before they were able to travel to New Zealand aboard a whaling ship destined for the Bay of Islands. During the passage home Ngarae gave birth to a son, naming him Tukaki. From the Bay of Islands they travelled to Auckland.
By this time Ngarae was almost destitute and was compelled to work as a housemaid in a hotel to support her family while awaiting a passage to Tauranga. One day while scrubbing floors with her sleeves rolled up, a Maori customer noticed Ngarae‘s tattoos and proclaimed her for what she was, the daughter of a Rangatira from Matakana. Thereupon, he took charge of the family and secured an early passage bound for Tauranga. Ani was educated at the mission house in Tauranga before returning to Matakana where she married Te Kuka Te Mea and raised eight children.
Mrs Kuka lived a long and useful life and died in 1942 at the age of 102. She is buried at Te Ahi Puhipuhi which is the Kutaroa Cemetery, Matakana Island.