Feb 15, 2018

Voyagers to sail to Wellington using the stars, clouds and waves

About 20 voyagers and crew have sailed from Tauranga to New Zealand’s capital city using traditional navigational methods from ancient ancestors who voyaged the Pacific.

Hinemoana is one of five traditional waka voyaging to Wellington for the New Zealand Festival 2018, which is being held between February 23 and March 18 culminating in a Waka Odyssey.

The fleet of ‘Te Mana o Te Moana’ arrives in the Solomon Islands for the Festival of Pacific Arts in 2012. Picture: Rawhitiroa photography

Designed to honour and celebrate voyaging history, a Waka Odyssey is a series of events over five days and will begin with an opening night theatrical spectacle to honour the legacy of famous Pacific explorer, Kupe.

Hinemoana voyager Ani Zhou Black said about 20 voyagers and crew would be on board the Tauranga waka travelling to Wellington by February 20, in time for the festival.

To navigate their way there, voyagers will use the stars, clouds, waves, wind and behaviour of birds and whales to reach their destination.

“It is the way our ancestors did it which is something we can hopefully be revived,” Black said.

“It is really capturing a part of us that has been sleeping.”

Black said most of the teenagers would have never sailed before and the voyage would teach them life skills and help them learn about their culture and its history.

For some teenagers the voyage was overwhelming and could trigger emotional responses among the voyagers, Black said.

“It is great to see a lot of the kids go home to their parents and talk about how they have changed,” she said.

“It is something that will remain in their memories.”

Black said the waka would meet in Gisborne before completing their journey to Wellington where they were hoping to arrive by February 20 in time for the festival on February 23.

The five waka were leaving from different parts of the country to attend the festival which Black said was a significant effort.

“It is really quite difficult to keep waka all together,” she said.

The Hawaiki Rising Voyaging Trust which owns the Hinemoana waka, was established with the vision of connecting young people with Maori and Pacific culture, the natural world and ultimately themselves.

It would be 14-year-old Wairere Sarich’s first time on a waka voyage.

“I am nervous and excited,” she said.

“I want to learn more about what Kupe had to do on his way here.”

Fellow voyager Maioha Wikaira, 15, said she had mixed emotions about the voyage but was keen to get on board.

“I want to learn how my ancestors navigated the seas,” she said.

A mass assembly of waka hourua (twin-hulled ocean-going waka) from around the Pacific and Aotearoa will descend on Wellington Harbour at dusk on February 23.

The choreographed movements of seven waka hourua, eight waka taua, and a fleet of waka ama will bring the harbour to life, while on land actors, choirs and kapa haka groups welcome the voyagers to the capital.

A 1000-strong new haka for Wellington will be performed, and a full musical score was being composed by New Zealand music icon Warren Maxwell.

What: The New Zealand Festival 2018
When: February 23-March 18
Where: Wellington Harbour

Article by Zoe Hunter for NZ Herald, Bay of Plenty Times, 13 February 2018