Tra­di­tional skills re­vived

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

Young Toke­lauans will soon be mak­ing waves in more ways than one, as a com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive to build a tra­di­tional vaka (ca­noe) nears com­ple­tion.

A core group of 30 men and boys has been work­ing eight hours a day, six days a week since Novem­ber to carve a Toke­lauan outrig­ger vaka from two huge to­tara logs.

The vaka is an at­tempt by Porirua’s Toke­lauan el­ders to in­ter­est young peo­ple in the cul­ture and tra­di­tions of their home­land.

Once com­plete, the vaka will be launched and used to teach teenagers fish­ing and nav­i­ga­tion skills, com­mu­nity mem­ber Moses Vil­iamu said.

‘‘It’s some­thing to get the young peo­ple in­ter­ested.

‘‘ They like things to be hands-on. We’re go­ing to use it to teach the cul­ture to the next gen­er­a­tion, about how to sail, how to read the stars, how to read the water and fish­ing tech­niques.’’

Vaka are hugely im­por­tant to Toke­lauans – with­out them there would be no food or com­mu­ni­ca­tion on the three tiny atolls that make up the na­tion.

Hardly any plants grow on the coral atolls ex­cept co­conut trees, so fish­ing pro­vides a huge part of Toke­lauans’ di­ets, Mr Vil­iamu said.

‘‘They say if we didn’t have the vaka we wouldn’t sur­vive in Toke­lau.’’

The vaka project only came about af­ter Mr Vil­iamu, a painter and graphic artist, ap­plied for Creative New Zealand fund­ing and re­ceived $ 20,000. Mana Com­mu­nity Grants also chipped in $4500 for ed­u­ca­tional re­sources.

‘‘ We were over the moon when they said we won [the fund­ing],’’ he said.

‘‘The whole com­mu­nity was re­ally happy.’’

Mas­ter carver Vase Re­u­pena has passed his skills on to the com­mu­nity’s ama­teur carvers, first teach­ing them how to make the carv­ing tools them­selves, then how to but­ter­fly­join two hol­lowed logs to­gether to form the seven-seater vaka.

The ca­noe will be sea­wor­thy and the com­mu­nity is plan­ning an am­bi­tious jour­ney from Porirua to Auck­land in it, Mr Vil­iamu said.

Porirua is home to 6000 Toke­lauans, the high­est num­ber in the world, in­clud­ing in Toke­lau which has a pop­u­la­tion of 1500.

‘‘We like to unof­fi­cially claim Porirua as the Toke­lau cap­i­tal of the world,’’ Mr Vil­iamu said.

Most Toke­lauans came to New Zealand in the 1960s to get fac­tory jobs and es­cape over­crowd­ing back home, Mr Vil­iamu said. Each atoll in Toke­lau is about the size of four rugby fields and the three is­lands to­gether have an area of just 10 square kilo­me­tres.

The vaka has been built at Matauala Hall in Can­nons Creek, which was built in the 1970s as a gath­er­ing place for Porirua’s Toke­lauan com­mu­nity.

Group ef­fort: Porirua’s Toke­lauan com­mu­nity is carv­ing a vaka to teach the next gen­er­a­tion tra­di­tional fish­ing and nav­i­ga­tion skills. Artist Moses Vil­iamu, front right, won the com­mu­nity $25,000 in grants for the project, which was led by mas­ter carver Vase Re­u­pena, third from front on the right.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.