Three waka experts carve a lasting legacy

By D'Angelo Martin

Māori and Pacific waka experts have collaborated to create three unique waka at the Rata symposium in Whangārei.

Experts from NZ, Hawaii and Tahiti have combined their knowledge and their work is expected to be demonstrated next month as part of the welcome for the Tuia 250 flotilla arrival.

James Eruera says, “I look at Tahitian Hawaiian and Māori the same people, so it's kind of like getting the whānau together for me.”

As a part of the Tuia Taitokerau vision, three canoes will be carved acknowledging the ancestral heritage of the Hawaiian, Tahitian and Māori people.

Alika Bumatay says, “We carve a lot to see the protocols that the Māori go through its very heart warming and very relatable and the hospitality just like at home.”

Eruera says, “You know all I hope for on that final day when the waka touches the water is that people understand how special this is to us for people to understand that our waka ain’t just logs that they ain’t just objects. That they’re living creatures, they’re living beings.”

Fieddie Tauotaha is a master canoe carver from Tahiti who has returned to Aotearoa to finish his father Puaniho Tauotaha's canoe which has been sitting in storage for many years.

Tauotaha says, “Hector told me "Fieddie you have to come back to New Zealand to finish your Papa canoe," but I never really thought about it, I'm just too busy working family and finance.”

Eruera says, “To have Fieddie come back to finish his dads canoe and to have the connection between them and Hector and everyone else coming together for this kaupapa is probably the highlight.”

For these carvers, sharing knowledge and retaining ancestral tradition is key.

Bumatay says, “I didn't look at it like that, I looked at it to carve along other Polynesian brothers and sisters so some people may be like "but hey you’re celebrating Captain Cook," but I say no, I'm just celebrating our culture.”

The Tuia 250 flotilla is expected to arrive in Northland at the end of this month. Only then will the public see the finished product.