Gently does it:
of Whakatane eases the waka Te Hono ki Aotearoa into the Awapoko
A traditional carved canoe has
created a new bond between two seafaring nations
than 360 years after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first European to
set eyes on New Zealand, a new link has been forged between the two nations.
October 18, 2010, a fully carved waka taua [Maori ceremonial canoe] named
Te Hono ki Aotearoa — The Link to New Zealand — was handed over to a
Dutch museum as thousands of spectators crowded the banks of an inner-city
handover ceremony involved paddlers from both countries, ambassadors, a
30-strong Maori delegation, even a member of the Dutch royal family.
Hono ki Aotearoa is on permanent loan to the Volkenkunde [Ethnology]
Museum in Leiden, a city midway between Amsterdam and The Hague, but will
remain the property of arts organisation Toi Maori.
the waka will form a living exhibit and, it is hoped, an ever-lasting link
between the Netherlands and New Zealand.
18-man canoe was made by Far North master waka builder Hekenukmai ('Hec')
Busby at his workshop in Doubtless Bay.
one of two carved from a single kauri and is Mr Busby's 27th, which includes
ten he built in Hawaii. Te Hono, however, will be his first
permanently stationed outside the Pacific.
carvings were made by a team led by Takirirangi Smith of Porirua. Four
carvers also spent a month in Holland carving a whare waka [canoe shelter]
for the museum grounds.
group Toi o Mataatua
performs a haka before the launch
waka was launched and put through its paces for the first time on June 26,
2010, after a naming ceremony and a dedicated haka [ceremonial dance]
performed by Whakatane cultural group Toi o Mataatua.
those paddling on the new waka’s maiden outing was Robert Gabel of Kawakawa,
chairman of the Nga Waka Federation.
goes like the clappers," he said, putting its speed down to a hull design
which Mr Busby had refined over many years.
Hono was also adapted for Dutch conditions, with a lowered taurapa
[sternpost] to fit under low bridges and a hull designed to "turn on a dime"
so it could manoeuvre on narrow canals.
waka had been to Europe before, but Te Hono would be the first permanently
based on the continent.
the museum wanted to buy a waka and that would have been the end of it. We
felt it was better to lend it and build up a relationship with the Dutch
people — so we’ll have a whanaungatanga [relationship] with Holland that’s
ongoing, that’s forever," he said.
plan is to keep the relationship alive — and the Dutch trained in the waka
traditions — by sending a few kaihoe [paddlers] to Holland every year,
with the Dutch reciprocating by sending some of their paddlers to New
Zealand for Waitangi Day celebrations every February 6.
Kaitaia’s Chappy Harrison, whose first experience of waka was as a bailer at
the tender age of five, captained Te Hono on its first outing and
trained a "really sharp crew" to travel to Leiden for the handover.
crew in turn trained members of Leiden University’s Njord Rowing Club in
waka drills, protocols and maintenance. Club members will be responsible for
paddling Te Hono at cultural events around Europe.
Kaihautu Chappy Harrison
directs paddlers as Te Hono ki Aotearoa takes to the water for the
Volkenkunde Museum spokeswoman Geke Vinke said the waka handover also marked
the opening of a major exhibition, simply called Maori.
exhibition featured taonga [treasures] from the museum’s collection — such
as a hoeroa [ceremonial whalebone weapon] which had belonged to the great
Ngapuhi chief Tamati Waka Nene — and objects on loan from museums in the UK
Visitors could also take part in workshops on carving and the haka, see
contemporary Maori art, and learn about Maori mythology and the Treaty of
Waitangi, signed by the Maori chiefs and Britain in 1840.
Vinke said the
seeds of the exhibition were planted in 2005 when museum
staff returned a 19th century preserved Maori head to Te Papa,
New Zealand's national museum in Wellington.
exhibition the following year on Leiden-born photographer Ans Westra, best
known for her portraits of 1960s Maori, led to more contacts with New
Zealand and the idea of "ordering" a waka.
rangatira Hekenukumai Busby and kaihautu Chappy Harrison share a moment
of quiet contemplation
grant of €425,000 (NZ$760,000) from BankGiro Loterij, the Dutch lottery
grants organisation, meant the museum could expand its wish-list to include
a fibreglass-hulled training waka and a carved whare waka for the museum
grounds, due to be completed in 2011.
the project had sparked strong interest in Holland, and the "spectacular"
handover ceremony received wide TV and newspaper coverage.
the waka master, Mr Busby said the short timeframe made building Te Hono
especially demanding. Two weeks before the launch it was still a bare hull,
Although 78, he has no plans to put his feet up. As Te Hono was being
tested for the first time he was already planning his next waka, which will
be carved in Rotorua and gifted to China.
of the reasons I’m still doing it is that I’m hoping it will carry on when
I’m gone. It was waka that brought us here in the first place, so we should
nuture our culture," he said.
14-metre, 955-kilogram Te Hono ki Aotearoa was transported by
container ship from the port of Tauranga to Antwerp in Belgium, then trucked
to Leiden for the official handover.
First published in Mana
magazine, October 2010.
Dutch explorer Abel Tasman visited New
Zealand in 1642 while searching for a mythical southern continent. His first
encounter with Maori ended badly, with three of his crew and at least one
Maori killed. He left several place names — including the country's name,
which is derived from Zeeland, a Dutch province — but never set foot on New
father, John (Jan-Wilhelm) de Graaf, was
born in Leiden in 1931, with a whakapapa [family tree] in the city going
back many centuries. He came to Aotearoa [New Zealand] in 1961 on the SS
Waterman, a World War II troop carrier converted to a migrant ship.
"It's an absolutely amazing country, and this is one of the most
beautiful experiences of my life'' - Dutch waka captain Koos
Dutch paddlers hooked
Four young Dutch paddlers have the time of their lives in New Zealand's
biggest waka [canoe] pageant
A young Dutchman taking part in Waitangi
Day celebrations as a waka paddler says it is one of the greatest
experiences of his life.
Koos Wabeke, 23, from the city of Leiden, was one of four Dutch students
to visit Northland in the first year of an exchange between New Zealand
and the Netherlands.
The relationship began last year with the handover of a fully carved,
Northland-made waka to the Volkenkunde ethnology museum in Leiden.
Dutch kaihoe [paddlers]
Koos Wabeke, left, and Pieter Roorda after their outing in the great
Among the conditions of the waka's "permanent loan" to the museum are
that a Dutch crew is fully trained in waka protocols, and that some of
the paddlers travel to New Zealand for Waitangi Day celebrations each
year to enhance their knowledge.
The Dutch kaihoe [paddlers] belong to the Njord Royal Rowing Club, the
Netherlands' oldest student rowing club.
Mr Wabeke said members of arts organisation Toi Maori travelled to
Holland last year to check them out and learn about the club, which was
founded in 1874 and received its 'royal' title to honour club members'
part in the Dutch Resistance during World War II.
The Dutch kaihoe spent many hours practising paddle drills and
had to learn the haka.
"Some of it was pretty new to us, but because we are used to discipline
and rhythm, we picked it up pretty fast."
Their first time in the waka Te Hono ki Aotearoa [The Link to New
Zealand] was "pretty special", he said.
"It's such an important waka to them, we have to be respectful and very
understanding with it."
Piripi Mihaka performs a
haka during the Waitangi Day waka pageant on Tii Beach
When the time came for the handover last October - on a city canal in
front of thousands of people, including diplomats and a member of the
Dutch royal family - Mr Wabeke, as club president, was chosen as
"It was amazing, but it was nerve-wracking. I had to learn all the Maori
commands and lead the haka."
As well as taking part in the Waitangi Day
waka pageant, the Dutch paddlers visited waka master Hec Busby's
workshop in Doubtless Bay, where the Dutch waka was built, and had
the "great honour" of crewing the 36-metre waka Ngatokimatawhaorua.
"The Maori culture has grabbed us pretty hard," Mr Wabeke said.
"They are trusting and give us a lot of responsibility, they are open
and honest, they tell great stories and then listen to our stories. We
are hooked on it. It's an absolutely amazing country, and this is one of
the most beautiful experiences of my life."
The paddlers already have a rigorous training schedule planned when they
return to Holland - but any practice in the waka will have to wait until
the frozen canals thaw.
Also taking part in the
waka pageant were Pieter Roorda, 22, Peerke van der List, 20, and Annerie
van Dalsen, 24. They were accompanied by Farideh Fekrsanati, objects
conservator at the Volkenkunde Museum.
First published in the
Northern Advocate, February 7, 2011.