Alien Weaponry offer an important history lesson with ‘Ahi Kā’.
One of New Zealand’s biggest up-and-coming metal acts , Alien Weaponry, are doing their own thing: injecting their thrash sound with a burning love for the Polynesian traditions and history of the Māori people. Their music is often a loving vessel for their own Māori ancestry, with song lyrics sung in Māori. Which is also where ‘Ahi Kā‘ comes in.
Relating to Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei, a tribe that lived in Auckland when Europeans first settled the area, the trio’s new tune is about the injustices those people suffered. Like the stories of many native folk the world over, it’s a part of their history that is lost to either time, indifference, or both. Which is what makes songs like ‘Ahi Kā‘, so noble; they’re a vehicle for real education. (Something I loved about High Tension’s ‘Ghost To Ghost‘.) So let’s get into it.
Around the time the the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, chief Te Kawau sold 3,000 acres of land to Governor Hobson, on the expectation that Auckland would become the seat of the colonial government. When parliament was later moved to Wellington, Te Kawau refused to sell off any more land, but land acquisition still continued through confiscation and similar legislation.
This went so far as to have the land overlooking and including the village – Takaparawhā, or Bastion Point – to be annexed by the colonial government in 1886. Whereupon in 1941, the Crown decided the site was no longer needed, and subsequently “gifted” to the Auckland City Council as a reserve. Returning it to its owners? Nah, fuck that, right? Following 1941, Ngāti Whātua leaders had applied constantly via formal channels to try and have their land at Takaparawhā rightfully returned to them.
In 1953, when Elizabeth II announced she would give up her so important royal spare time looking down upon the plebs beyond her gates to voyage out to New Zealand, the Auckland City Council embarked upon a ‘beautification’ program in preparation. (A sample of her visit is used in the track too.) This was actually the first time a reigning monarch had visited their shores, and things had to be just perfect. However, such patriotism regarding these visitation events is often skewed towards a select few groups, and unfortunately for the local Māori people of Auckland – the Ngāti Whātua – it was decided that their native village of Ngāti Whātua at Okahu Bay was “unsightly”. Thus, it was burned to the ground so the poor ol’ Queen wouldn’t have to gaze upon it as her motorcade travelled around the waterfront. Burning homes so a rich snob doesn’t have to place their eyes upon people far less fortunate? Disgusting.
As a result of the Auckland council’s decision, a work party was dispatched and the Ngāti Whātua were evicted from their homes, horribly forced to stand by as they watched their own village go up in flames. The dispossessed families were then moved into State housing nearby, where in an appalling insult to an already open wound, they were then also required to pay rent. This crippled a once thriving community, forcing younger generations into poverty and making it difficult for many to support their elders and community leaders. Something that’d been possible when they lived on their own lands.
In 1976, when the government announced they planned to sell the land to property developers for high-income housing, hundreds of members of the Ngāti Whātua tribe occupied said land. They lived in difficult, makeshift conditions for nearly two years; and were eventually forcibly removed by police and army personnel in a public action widely televised via NZ media. Over 200 of the “protesters” were arrested. Since then, in the 1980s, Ngāti Whātua eventually had a small portion of their land returned to them with an apology and some compensation. However, the land occupation and the use of force to end it played a pivotal part in highlighting the very real injustices levelled against the Māori. These events became a catalyst in the birth of Māori sovereignty and further land rights protests in New Zealand.
So, that’s the history lesson. Now, it’s time for riffs.