A double-hulled kauri waka rides gently on the Aurere River near Kaitaia, poised to make an historic voyage to Rarotonga, tracing the passage taken by Māori ancestors many centuries ago.
Launched late last year , waka and crew are now undergoing intense physical and emotional training and learning traditional navigational skills using only the stars, moon, sun, the elements and sightings of birds. The waka, named Te Aurere, recently made a trip to Waitangi and back, putting her and the crew's sea worthiness to the test, and reaching speeds up to 30 knots.
For Hekenukumai (Project Architect), the concept of waka has done much to strengthen cultural and regional relationships with the people of New Zealand and the Pacific in a revival of kaupapa waka, the practise of which had been dormant for some time here in Aotearoa.
The sea trials are intense. The stars to follow are memorised and the sights are set for Rarotonga, for the South Pacific Festival of Arts later this year. The risks are taken seriously, the responsibilities are great, as Hekenukumai puts it, if the crew is not ready by September the trip is off. Funding becomes quite hard, and offers of help are requested from our people.
Other aspects are also spoken about during this interview, such as what the concept of the waka has done for our people here and across the Pacific, and maybe Alaska as well.
Whanaungatanga comes into it as well as Taha Wairua. The choice of the crew has to be the right decision. How many people will crew the waka and how far will they travel each day? How long will the journey take?