Saturday, March 2, 2013

Finishing Touches on a Waka Tete

Hec sketching a Tauihu out of a Kauri chunk. Another waka tete tauihu acts as our  model.
Besides enjoying Aurere, an incredibly beautiful and alive beach filled with tea tree and plentiful wildlife, my last few weeks of time in the workshop of Hector Busby was spent learning the finishing beautiful touches of the waka. My introduction to carving at such a scale, Hector and Opo showed me how to chisel with patterns and chisel on a Tauihu, or frontal piece of the canoe. On a waka taua (war canoe) the frontal piece is a very large plate with holes through (which have deep philosophical significance in Maori design). On the waka tete (fishing canoe) a face with protruding tongue is usually carved out of once piece, including a front splash board.

Hec and I chiseling the Tauihu once we know our basic shape.
Most Maori carving is based off of natural patterns which are derived from natural motions of the hand to draw on the patterns. A center line is still extremely import in the carving of something that is meant to be symmetrical. Though modern tools such as grinders and chainsaws are used in carving the waka pieces, the meaning and importance behind the carving remain the same. As Hector says "our ancestors used the best they had and we are using the best we have", the importance is in the end result and our persistence in getting  there.

Opo drawing on our center line
Taumanu, or thwarts, are places for strength and beauty, making even black lines ever meter and a half or so. These are sunken and then lashed into the Rawawa (carved planks).

Getting our pattern drawn for the spashboard, finished Taumanu (thwarts) are visible in the background

A splash board is added to the back using engineering minds and persistence to perfection to sit it just right over the rawawa and the piway (the black pieces made to secured the lashed gap).

designing the splashboard

The taurapa (vertical standing back piece), is a gorgeously carved piece that has both function and philosophical importance. Important patterns such as genealogy  cultural stories, uses of the canoe and religious intentions can be carved into the sides of the waka. Each symbol on the vertical piece has an intricate and heavy story to tell. Opo showed me some of these patterns as he did the finished touches on this taurapa. Again, as in so many experiences in my travels, I am humbled by how litttle I know and how much there is to know in our incredibly interesting world. I am grateful for the Maori friends who have showed me a little of their world and the incredible arts they are keeping alive. Just as a taurapa stands tall to show what those in the canoe are all about, it literally holds the canoe steady in the wind. That is what the Maori waka builders and carvers do for Maori-dom today, standing tall for who they are, the land  which is theirs, and keeping the canoe of culture steady into the future.

An unfinished Taurapa 

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