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Ruatapu was the son of paramount chief or Ariki, Uanuku Rakeiora of Taputapuatea (Raiatea). As a master navigator he sailed to many pacific islands, notably one of his significant voyages was to the Kingdom of Tonga, to which there are still living descendants of Ruatapu alive today.
Ruatapu had also previously visited Rarotonga on his travels and also had a family on that island. While living in Tonga he asked for his Tongan born son named, Moenau, to be taken to his Rarotongan family and so the boy was delivered by his Tongan grandfather.
As Ruatapu did not accompany the boy, his son was rejected by his Rarotongan partner so the grandfather took the boy to the island of Mauke. Here Moenau grew and became a powerful man and used his size to bully the locals until he was killed by Tara-te-kurapo and Tara-te-kui of Mauke. After some time Ruatapu grew curious of how his son was, departed Tonga and journeyed to Rarotonga and Mauke.
After discovering that his son had died Ruatapu sought out the reason why and perhaps avenge his son's death. However this was covered up by Moenau’s wife explaining that he had fallen to his death as the two Mauke men responsible, were related to her and had also cared for her and her son since Moenau’s death. Ruatapu then departed Mauke, stopping briefly at Atiu then onto the final destination on his travels, the island of Aitutaki.
Here he hid from the local population until he saw his opportunity to befriend a chief on the island named Taruia, a descendant of another well renowned ancestor, Te Erui There are many oral history stories about Ruatapu ‘s life in Aitutaki, which also involved his sons and were shared similar to lessons as many were stories with a moral.
This image depicts the great navigator Ruatapu on his vaka, and includes a mast attachment originating from Tonga.
Materials: Stretched Canvas, Oil paint, varnish.
Size: 36 x 24
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© 2023 Clinton Hewett Artist.