Upholding the mana and tradition of waka

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Students on our Education Experience explore the taonga in He Kaupapa Waka - some of our local students are in the photos and many have whānau in them

Education groups with a focus on waka and navigation have been appreciating our multi-sensory He Kaupapa Waka exhibition. The powerful images of the fleet of waka, kaihoe (paddlers) and spectators, were captured by photographer Te Rawhitiroa Bosch at Waitangi Day 2020. Some of our visiting students feature in photos; there is also the story of a local school’s special connection with our Prime Minister.

Students from Te Kura o Waikare travelled to Wellington in November 2019 to visit the Beehive. While there, 2 of the students invited Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to come on their waka, Hine te Aparangi, during her time at Waitangi. Jacinda said she could not promise anything but would try. Imagine their excitement when she arrived to visit the students and paddled their waka with them! Te Rawhitiroa’s photos show the unique connection made on this voyage. A story by rangatahi (youth) about their memorable experience features alongside the images.

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The photo story of Te Kura o Waikare and their special voyage and connection with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

The exhibition also features two replica waka taua (war canoes) standing proudly in the centre of the gallery, carved by the late Ariki Moana Hekenukumai Ngāiwi Pūhipi (Sir Hector Busby) at his home in Te Aurere, Doubtless Bay. Made from tōtara and swamp kauri, these waka were the last to be carved by Sir Hec and his team before he passed away in 2019. The feel of the carvings, fragrance of woodchips in the waka, swinging movements of carved hoe (paddles) and rich soundscape with karakia, waiata and waka chants all bring to life the people in the images. The exhibition also honours Sir Hector Busby, and kaumātua Wiremu Wiremu, both central figures in the waka world, who passed in recent times, leaving a powerful legacy for all kaihoe to follow.

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One of the carved replica waka taua on display - along with a range of carved hoe (paddles) which traditionally were also used as weapons

Waitangi is known for its annual waka voyage, where the tradition of waka and associated knowledge is upheld. Hundreds of kaihoe (paddlers) jump aboard their various waka, paddling in front of thousands of visitors. Waitangi Day 2020 marked 80 years since the launch of Ngātokimatawhaorua – the waka taua built for the centennial of the signing of Te Tiriti and today housed at Waitangi. Also on display are images documenting the creation of Ngātokimatawhaorua – from the felling of the tree, the carving, through to the launch in 1940.

Ngā waka at Waitangi are an important part of our education programmes in sharing the story of Aotearoa. Waka and the discovery of Aotearoa by Polynesian navigators will be part of New Zealand’s new history curriculum in 2022. In February 2020 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a $1.75 million waka programme to strengthen the knowledge of Māori and Pacifica voyaging traditions. Waka programmes now engage more than 100,000 children each year, a path for rangatahi to connect and learn about their shared history while moving forward in unison.

Hear Te Rawhitiroa Bosch talk about the creation of He Kaupapa Waka exhibition

Watch a video of Waitangi Day waka

29.3.2021 I.Rider