08 Aug 2022
On a crisp Tauranga morning in July, waka enthusiasts gathered to witness the dedication ceremony of a matangirua waka (sailing and paddling canoe), in a waka revitalisation project led by Kaihautū (Skipper), Frank Kawe (Tauranga Moana and Ngāti Kahungunu).
“Sailing waka ama is a long-held tradition across Polynesia; however, its revival in Aotearoa is still in its infancy,” said Frank.
“Our project, Matangirua: Breathing Life into Our Sailing Heritage, aspires to revive sailing waka ama, and to teach the traditional practice of matangirua (sailing and paddling at the same time) in Tauranga Moana and across Aotearoa.”
The six-man Moana Nui waka ama (outrigger canoe) was self-funded by Kawe with funding support from Creative New Zealand to customise the hull, build kia ato and ama (outrigger), boom, mast and tramps enabling it to be converted to a matangirua.
Blessed by senior waka leader and Navigator, Jack Thatcher, the waka was given a significant name steeped in mātauranga Māori, ‘Te Pahore o Rehua’ as explained by Frank, “There are two main elements to the name. The first is the association with pahore/inanga (whitebait), as well as tuna, and the different stages in their development, growth and life cycle.”
“It also recognises the environmental space between fresh and sea waters, such as rivers and streams, harbours, estuaries and river mouths. Here, the waka is seen as a juvenile striving to voyage like an adult through to the open oceans and beyond.”
“Te Pahore o Rehua also refers to the time of the spring equinox where the sun rises and sets on the equator. This moment in its journey is symbolic of the sun crossing over and moving into our summer months, which are associated with Rehua. It also is symbolic of our connection to our whanaunga in the northern half of Te Moana nui a Kiwa, particularly Hawaii where extensive mātauranga (knowledge) for our waka tere comes from,” Frank says.
PWO Navigator and Waka Hourua skipper, Jack Thatcher completes the dedication ceremony for ‘Te Pahore o Rehua’.
Frank continues, “In Aotearoa, and specifically in Tauranga Moana, we maintain a strong tradition in waka ama, waka taua/tete, and waka hourua. Interestingly, there are limited opportunities to actively transition from paddling waka ama to sailing waka hourua, or to learn how to sail and navigate the open ocean. This may also be true in other coastal communities. This 6-man sailing waka ama will create a pathway between waka ama and waka hourua (double hull canoe) by reviving the tradition of matangirua (sailing waka ama) in Tauranga Moana and across Aotearoa."
“This will also hopefully lead to increased interest in traditional sailing waka, such as waka hourua."
Te Pahore o Rehua sailing its home waters of Tauranga Moana with support from Hoe Aroha Whānau o Mauao. Above: Kaihautū Frank Kawe (centre kneeling) and supporters prepare to sail.
“My long-term vision is to cultivate a cadre of matangirua experts who can lead and promote kaupapa waka within their own rohe."
“Waka ama started with a few canoes and dedicated practitioners. I believe matangirua will likely follow a similar pathway, opening up opportunities for Māori to build additional canoes, cultivate matangirua experts across the motu, host and participate in national regattas, and eventually, international regattas in places such as Hawai’i and Tahiti.”
Creative New Zealand with Te Manatu Taonga, Minstry for Culture and Heritage also give support to the critically endangered artform tārai waka (waka building) through the Mātauranga Māori Te Awe Kōtuku Fund.