Traditional ocean voyaging providing education and lifestyle

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes
  • North Island: East Coast

To the East Coast now, where the rural, isolated community of Anaura Bay is hosting the inaugural Matangirua Waka Festival 2019. The festival brings experience waka experts, crew and families together to develop the growing knowledge base around inter-island sailing.

Te Rauhuia Ngata of Matangirua says, “We may think mistakenly that the road is the main pathway, no, the main path for our ancestors was out there in the water, in the rivers, in the sea, and this is a way for us to revive those systems of knowledge and ways of living.”

The Matangirua Waka Festival enables families to participate in aspects of sailing while further developing the connection between Te Aitanga a Hauiti and their ocean lineages.

“Paoa, Kiwa, and even Māui, all the way to the ocean deity Tangaroa, such is the vastness of lineage we have to the sea, so how can we honour them if we are only land-based”, Te Rauhuia Ngata says.

The festival is being supported by Jack Thatcher's celestial navigation school Te Kura Waka and Te Toki Voyaging Trust. A number of waka motu (coastal) sailing vessels are being used to allow participants a first-hand experience on the water. 

“We're able to share with the young kids and the young adults that are here on learning how to sail firstly, and then when we have kōrero in the evenings and things they sit around and they just yarn with us and we can talk story about the things that we've done", Jack Thatcher says.

A celestial navigator in training, Hinerapa Rupuha says, “For them to experience and understand the connection between the winds, the waves and the waka, in order to reach a destination. But for the kids, it's just about playing, having fun, and maybe when they mature they'll understand.”

In addition to the many lessons derived from traditional voyaging, the benefits go beyond the water.

As a source of esoteric, traditional and contemporary knowledge, Te Aitanga a Hauiti leader Dr Wayne Ngata says, “Perhaps it's not that the physical vessel is the most important thing, but that it's more about the people and that way our narratives and our knowledge systems will live on, as the vessel maintains those aspects.”

In the coming months, Matangirua will prepare for a coastal voyage leading up to Tuia 250.