Friday, January 25, 2013

New Roots in Aotearoa (New Zealand)

Star Compass (to teach star navigation) at Hector Busby's in Doubtless Bay
Aotearoa, as the Maori call it, is the last major land mass to be colonized by our species,within the last thousand years. I've made it to the far north island, where I will stay until the end of February learning from master Waka (canoe) builder and navigator Hekenukumai Busby. As the ancestors had done, eighty year old Hector builds and sails different styles of Maori canoe, using native woods such as the giant Kauri tree, and navigating without a compass, using stars and signs from the natural environment. Having just completed the polynesian triangle (sailing to Hawaii, Aotearoa, and recently Easter Island) it is a perfect time to be learning from this true master and hero of culture.

Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest), the largest of the Kauri
I visited the western side of the North Island to visit the last big patch of old growth Kauri forest, the trees in which the Maori used for centuries to build various types of canoes, big and small, for all types of water. The entire process of building a canoe, like many processes in Maori culture, is sacred and interwoven with spiritual practices. This begins, with canoe building, in how the builders approach the revered tree, considered an embodiment of the forest god. I was blessed to see Tane Mahuta, an incredibly massive tree which exhudes an intense energy and power.

Mataatua Puhi, the first Waka Taua Hector built, now resting along side 127 foot NgaToki Mataawhaaorua, from the 1930's at the Waitungi Treaty Grounds.
Also, in the 10 days or so that I have been here on the island, I had the chance to visit the Waitungi Treaty Grounds, where the treaty was signed in 1840 between the British Empire and the Maori tribes, allow a coexistence upon the island. Two canoes, viewed above, rest there at the museum, both Waka Taua.

Hector directing the Waka Taua hull to be moved inside to finish 
The week wasnt without canoe building. We are finishing a roughly 40 foot waka taua, a hull made from 12000 year old Kauri wood, a thousand year old tree which had been preserved in a swamp. Correcting the hull and painting the carvings, beautiful faces and designs which run along side the canoe paying homage to the ancestors. in preparation for lashing has taken up most of the days.

You will learn a lot more about the culture and canoes of the Maori and this beautiful land in the next few posts. In the mean time, Ive got to keep net fishing on the sacred river Awapoko here in Doubtless Bay and enjoying the place for what it is - unlike any other.
Opo, fellow canoe builder, paddling Waka Tiwai  (small river canoe) while netfishing

1 comment:

  1. So cool, Will! Looks like you are having an amazing trip - learning and experiencing SO much! So happy for you and proud of you! Keep up the good work! Love you!!