A wānanga in Tauranga called Te Kura o Ngā Kuri a Tarawhata aims at revitalising the ancient art of non-instrumental traditional waka voyaging among youth. It's the first pilot wānanga of its kind. An ancient practice on the brink of extinction, tutor Jack Thatcher hopes that this school will breathe life again into waka voyaging.
Thatcher has been learning the art of ocean voyaging for most of his life. A practice he says is on the brink of extinction. He hopes to bring forth a new generation of sea navigators.
“All the students are keen, they're wanting to learn, and are I suppose are brave enough to want to have a go at all those things that make this a unique experience for them. Some of them may not have had this type of experience before.”
A pilot programme, the kura has been going for six months. As part of the last leg of the course the 15 students recently sailed to the East Coast.
“It's been awesome we had a great time, it's been totally awesome connecting with Tairāwhiti. We went to Wharekahika first, then down to Tokomaru, then into Uawa and lastly Gisborne and we probably had 300 or 400 kids apart of the programme during that time where they came on board”, says Thatcher.
The programme receives sponsorship from Toi Māori and koha from each student. Jack has high hopes for its future.
Thatcher says, “The Kura will be going for four years at least to graduate a new generation of navigators who will be keeping the legacy of Mau Piailug alive and their graduation will be in them all navigating Ngāhiraka to Micronesia.”
A practice close to the heart of Jack and his community, he says it's important to keep it alive.
“It's important to keep old knowledge alive. It's important so that we know what our heritage is, we know and can be proud of our tupuna because there's just too much, I suppose other things that get in the way of that.”