Topic: Kimi Ngatai (1904-1989)
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).
Kimi Ngatai was born on 13 December 1904 at Tauranga. Her father was Reweti Ngatai, eldest son of well-known chief of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe, Taiaho (Hori) Ngatai, and her mother was Te Tuhi McLeod, youngest daughter of another well-known chief of Tauranga, Taipari McLeod. Photographs of both grandparents hang in the Maori meeting house at the Historic Village.
Kimi was well known in Tauranga and across New Zealand as she travelled far and wide to Maori functions. She is mostly remembered for her work in making whariki (mats), kete (kits) and potae (hats).
Right into her later years she continued to collect material for her work: kiekie from the bush and pingao from the beach. This all had to be prepared before she was able to use them for weaving.
Her whariki are to be seen in most meeting houses in this area but mainly at Whareroa Marae. Some of her work has also gone to Fiji and America. She also helped her daughter with two tukutuku panels which hang in the St Mary’s Anglican Church at Mount Maunganui. She was regarded by her people as a person to whom one could go to for advice and was deeply respected by everyone.
Five years ago the old meeting house at Whareroa was lengthened and redecorated. All the old carved pieces were stripped, cleaned and repainted then put back into the building. All this work was done by Kimi and her sisters Monikoura and Rahuikura.
He Kuia morehu tenei, no te Iwi o Ngai Te Rangi. I mate i te rua tekau ma toru o nga ra o Maehe, i te tau, kotahi mano iwa rau waru tekau ma waru. Ona tau, waru tekau ma wha.
Na Nga Roimata Cavill 1993.