Chair of Ngā Waka Federation
He Kaupapa Waka is a term to describe the many dimensions of waka practice, which encompass and reflect all aspects of Te Ao Māori. For instance, Kaupapa Waka is founded on the tikanga and mātauranga specific to waka and involves all Māori cultural practices and art forms.
The waka hourua connects us to our Pacific forebears, and the return of waka hourua voyaging in Aotearoa in the late twentieth century resulted in the revival of knowledge of traditional navigation by the stars and elements, including birds and mammals.
The waka taua carries the mana of its iwi, leaders and people. Elaborated carved, the original purpose of the waka taua was to take warriors to battle. Nowadays, the waka taua is used in significant ceremonial occasions to showcase the mana of the iwi.
While encompassing many aspects of waka tikanga, waka ama is a paddling sport focused on participation by all members of the whānau. It has become one of the fastest-growing sports in Aotearoa, has participant nations throughout the Pacific and is expanding worldwide.
I believe a national organisation such as Toi Māori Aotearoa, and regional waka groups provide crucial infrastructure to assist and support the various waka groups that practice Kaupapa Waka in Aotearoa, as many waka groups lack the formal structures required to access help when needed.
The first of these projects was the construction of the waka taua, Mātaatua Puhi, for the 1990 Waka Pageant as part of the 150-year commemoration of the signing of New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. At this event, I observed the absolute splendour of 22 waka lined up on Te Tii Beach, which was a source of pride and a powerful display of the mana of ngā iwi Māori in Aotearoa that instilled in me the significance of waka in Te Ao Māori.
From this pageant, kaihoe are selected for crews for international events supported by Toi Maori Aotearoa. These events include Māori Art Meets America in San Francisco (2005), the America’s Cup Yachting Event in Valencia, Spain (2007), the handover of Te Hono ki Aotearoa in the Netherlands (2010), the City of London Festival in England (2011), the Queen’s Jubilee in England (2012) and Frankfurt Book Fair (2013), and the centennial commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium (2017).
I have served as Chair of Ngā Waka Federation since 1995. I am a strong advocate of Kaupapa Waka, particularly in researching and revitalising mātauranga waka and transferring that knowledge to the younger generation. My on-the-water role is to provide support and guidance to the kaihautū when and if required. Off the water, I select waka crews for various occasions, advise and guide kaihoe in waka tikanga, ensure all tikanga and protocols (including health and safety requirements) are followed and oversee logistics relating to the provision of waka and kaihoe. I also act as a kaitiaki of waka that are part of the Ngā Waka Federation kaupapa, such as Whakaangi (see section below).
Selecting the kaihautū is a crucial decision. The role of a kaihautū is to lead the crew by example on and off the water. The pertinent characteristics of a kaihautū is to be able to be flexible, consider all relevant factors and make the correct decision accordingly. By consistently making good decisions, the kaihautū will gain the crew’s respect, which is imperative.
When selecting kaihoe, I assess the occasion to be celebrated, consider the matrix of required skills and develop the requisite training programme. Toi Māori Aotearoa events invariably require a strong tikanga base and on-the-water kaihoe experience. The needs of each event may differ; some may be more physically demanding with less of a cultural requirement, while other events foreground cultural artistry and are not as physically demanding. The target areas of training vary depending on the individual skills of each kaihoe and the occasion. However, discipline and teamwork are valuable attributes, and the ability to be a Māori ambassador is essential when representing Toi Maori Aotearoa overseas.
The waka Whakaangi was built at Aurere in 2009 by Hekenukumai Puhipi and Heemi Eruera. The waka was launched at Waitangi on 5 February 2010. The launching protocols were overseen by Pouroto Ngaropo, Tepene Mamaku, Rima Edwards and Hekenukumai Puhipi.
The primary activities of Whakaangi are to provide an opportunity for youth to practice Kaupapa Waka at Waitangi Day commemorations and other events where the mana of iwi, hapū and whānau are showcased. The waka has, over the years, participated in many events of regional and national interest, such as the Rugby World Cup, documentary filmmaking, the Taipā bridge opening, training and preparing crew for overseas events such as the handover of Te Hono ki Aotearoa and the Queen’s Jubilee on the River Thames.
The waka Whakaangi was carved from a kauri tree sourced from the Ngaiotonga forest with the agreement of Te Kapotai in the Bay of Islands. Whakaangi is 14 metres long and seats 16 kaihoe together with the Kaihautū. The tauihu features Ngāti Kahu carving designs, and one of only two waka taua with that design, the other being Te Hono ki Aotearoa in the Netherlands. In fact, the waka in the Netherlands is a twin of Whakaangi and both are made from the same kauri tree.
WAKA TAUA ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
Te Hono ki Aotearoa in the Netherlands demonstrates that Kaupapa Waka can be adapted to new horizons without compromising cultural integrity. While Te Hono ki Aotearoa reinforces existing practices, the journey of waka on the world stage has exposed Te Ao Māori—our art, culture and traditions—to the world. This exposure has required us to innovate some customs of waka taua and carefully and constantly review the definitions and functions of waka. But the concept of waka has not changed, and Te Hono ki Aotearoa—the link to Aotearoa—remains strong.
Prepared by Whatarangi Winiata in 2022