One of the controversies discussed in class about Whale Rider, by Witi Ihimaera, was whether or not Koro Apirana knew that Kahu was the future leader of the Maori tribe. Although the novel suggests through particular events that Koro must be blind to not see Kahu’s destiny, I believe that he did not realize. This is due to the fact that Koro is so deeply absorbed in his tradition. He is too focused on finding a male leader, as the past suggests, that he does not see the signs pointing to Kahu.
Koro Apirana’s search for the ‘one’ became a serious obsession. It took over his life, and in doing so he carelessly pushed loving Kahu away. At his meetings with the young potential boys and with the tribe, he constantly yelled at her and closed her off to the ways of the Maori. Kahu kept loving Koro however, even dedicating her speech to him, and staying patient and selfless. Unfortunately this love was always left unanswered because Kahu was a girl. If she wasn’t or Koro Apirana showed affection despite her gender, he might have noticed the signs.
Kahu spoke to whales, bit Koro’s toe, retrieved the stone from the ocean, and dolphins saved her life more than once. If Nanny Flowers had told Koro Apirana about her swimming to get the stone, he probably would have considered Kahu as the future leader. He did not, however, and in spite of the lost stone, became more immersed in tradition and finding the one. Also, when the whales were committing suicide, Kahu was extremely distraught yet still was positive with the family. Koro knew that the whales were a sign, but unaware that it related to Kahu.
At the end, Kahu’s destiny was revealed in a dramatic and terrifying way. History and modern female leadership came together as Kahu sacrificed herself to save the whales, Koro, and the Maori tribe. It took a tragedy that affected an entire people for Koro Apirana to see that Kahu was meant to lead and save everyone. He realized his errors and was overcome with desperate sadness and ultimate relief. This event changed Koro for the better. He learned to open his eyes and appreciate Kahu for who she was meant to be.