Samoan voyagers revive traditional practices

By Te Kāea

Traditional Samoan voyagers have arrived in New Zealand for next month’s Festival of Arts in Wellington. But the crew of 16 are also reaching out to Māori sailing experts to assist in the revival of their own traditional practices.

Samoa's only ocean voyaging vessel has been carried into Auckland.

Samoan Voyaging Society President Schannel van Dijken told Te Kāea, “Unfortunately due to the weather and some circumstances, for safety we have Gaualofa shipped from Samoa.”

Gaualofa's crew of 16 are elated to finally have their beloved vessel back three weeks after it arrived in New Zealand on a container ship.

Gaualofa elder Lavata’I Mailagi says, “Been so emotional about this moment. We've been working hard to get here.”

Van Dijken says, “She's actually done her own trip around the pacific while getting here. The cargo ship went to Rarotonga, went to Tonga, Niue.”

This is Gaualofa's second time in New Zealand since it was carved in 2009. The crew have co0me for the New Zealand Festival celebrating Kupe. But their primary focus is to revive their traditional knowledge which was all but lost in the 1800's.

Mailagi says, “It's so sad that we have lost a lot of our knowledge. The way the used to navigate using the stars, the sun, the moon, the clouds, the environment.”

Van Dijken says, “It's reviving the traditional way we used to sail, but also the traditional way that we used to look at our resources and look at our land and our sea.”

Gaualofa has sailed the globe. But It's captain and ariki say, there's no point in reviving traditional knowledge in a environment suffering from severe climate change.

Mailagi says, “With the arrival of new things like plastic, it seems to be ruining our homes.”

Van Dijken says, “We know we've been having these increased storm frequencies, the temperature of the waters going up, land is eroding, but there's things the communities can do that can help mitigate that.”

The crew will spend the next month preparing their vessel. They will then set sail north for Waitangi Day then on to Wellington before making the 2000mile voyage home to Samoa in April.