24 Oct 2022
A 13-metre waka was launched this morning as part of the Rātā He Kaha Ki Uta event held alongside the Te Hau Kōmaru National Waka Hourua Festival in Kāwhia at the weekend.
Initiated in 2019, Rātā He Kaha Ki Uta – a collaboration of mātanga and tohunga waka, emerging practitioners, and voyagers from four communities in Aotearoa – came together to carve and shape a new waka. The waka tāngata was launched this morning during a dawn karakia ceremony.
The project brought together Aotearoa’s waka builders, students, and communities to strengthen practice development in the art form. A kaupapa that was born out of the waka communities’ commitment to revitalising the endangered artform of traditional waka building.
Project Lead and waka builder Heemi Eruera attributes the success of the new waka to the experts from Te Taitokerau, Te Tairāwhiti, Waikato Tainui and Te Whanganui a Tara and their tireless dedication to the kaupapa.
A continuation, he says, of the work started by the late master waka builder and navigator Sir Hekenukumai Busby.
“What Sir Hekenukumai began, which we now continue, is accumulating mātauranga tārai waka. If we drop the ball now the greatest risk is that we lose that accumulated knowledge,” he said.
“The greatest impact we could ever hope to achieve is engaging our young people; the relationship building across different iwi across the country,” Heemi added.
A 2009 report commissioned by Creative New Zealand identified tārai waka and associated knowledge as being endangered. Creative New Zealand Arts Practice Director Māori, Kereama Te Ua, says kaupapa like these are key to ensure the retention and revitalisation of this endangered artform.
“Creative New Zealand shares the same concerns as tohunga who have identified that waka building knowledge and expertise is at crisis point. As part of our Māori arts strategy, Te Hā o ngā Toi, we’re committed to building a stronger sector to advance ngā toi Māori aspirations like Rātā He Kaha Ki Uta and to ensure more whānau and communities have the opportunity to learn about waka building and the associated mātauranga,” Kereama added.
Creative New Zealand is proud to support leading Māori arts practitioners to progress programmes such as Rātā He Kaha Ki Uta to protect and ensure the retention of these artforms for future generations, and acknowledges the contribution made by tohunga tārai waka to strengthen ngā toi Māori.
Rātā He Kaha Ki Uta has been supported under Creative New Zealand’s Te Hā o ngā Māori Arts Strategy and the Mātauranga Māori Te Awe Kōtuku Fund led by Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage.