Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lashing the Waka

Getting the initial last tight on the Rawawa (carved plank) and black Piwai). The two pronged push lever is made of tea tree freshly cut from the bush.
The giant dugout hulls of the Maori Waka canoes are made even more water-worthy with the addition of planks tied on in an ancient technique of push and pull. This lashing process is what has keep me quite busy in the last couple weeks as we lash the new (though the swamp Kauri wood is more than 10,000 years old) Waka Taua (war canoe) or Waka Tete (fishing canoe). The same hull and Ngati Kahu (local Iwi or tribe) style carvings can be used for either canoe, but the spiritual process and practices of use will vary depending on what the Waka will be used for.

Pulling up as Alex, my lashing partner, puts the peg in to hold the cord
The lashing process is done with good old elbow grease, pulling a cord (now nylon, traditionally flax) through a whole three times, pulling hard with a fork on each past through. The cord is locked on each whole between the hull, carved plank and two sealing pieces called piwai, with a half hitch style nut slipped under the wrapped cord to the next hole.

Checking lash tightness, lashing tools in view
Up to a thousand pound of pressure are applied to each whole, pulling planks to the hull for a perfect fit (ideally). It still takes quite a bit of muscle to make it all work. Whether canoes, buildings, families, and even environments, the hardwork I learn in the process of keeping this traditional canoe from falling apart is a good lesson to be applied to the other systems in which we take part.

Nearly finished Waka
This weekend I went back to see my Maori fisherman friend Gavin in the Bay of Islands where I went to a Hangi. The Hangi is a traditional Maori way of cooking where stones are heated up and placed in the ground with root vegetables and pork on top for half a day. It was delicious! I'll leave it at that.


Hongi (ground cooked deliciousness) in Paihia
 Gavin, a Ponamu (or jade) carver in traditional Maori art styles taught me to carve ponamu pendants referred to as Taonga. Taonga are treasures embedded with life force not to be taken lightly,they are beautiful and to be revered for many generations. The little adze (canoe build tool) I made which now hangs around my neck gives me a new energy. The sturdy stone was quite a meaningful experience, carving its form from the stone as the Maori ancestors had done in order to build their canoes. I wonder who will inherit this little Taonga?
My ponamu taonga (jade treasure keepsake), just ignore sideways pictures!

1 comment:

  1. Very cool to carve your taonga. But no moko yet?

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