Chance meeting leads to new passion and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
A chance meeting with a man looking for a lift in 2007 introduced Anaru Irwin to a passion that is now taking him to represent New Zealand at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Anaru, 37, is one of the kaihoe (paddlers) that will row the ceremonial waka taua (war canoe) Te Hono ki Aotearoa / The Link to New Zealand in the Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on 3 June.
“I met a man by the name of Hoturoa Kerr and his two girls looking for a lift from Te Aroha to his home on Whatawhata Road and he asked if I wanted to go for a paddle with him and I have paddled ever since for his club Te Toki.”
His passion for paddling is such that less than five years after his introduction to it, Anaru and his son are now on Taheretikitiki one of the six waka taua of Tainui. And now Anaru is preparing to fly to London at the end of May.
The waka taua Te Hono ki Aotearoa will be one of more than 1,000 vessels in a flotilla taking part in the 4-hour formal procession. It will be one of the largest flotillas ever assembled on the river.
The crew of 14 kaihoe began their training at the end of March and included three wānanga in Hamilton. They trained on the Waikato River with a waka taua named Whakāngi which was carved from the same 800 year old tree that Te Hono ki Aotearoa was crafted from. As well as being out on the River, the wānanga also involved gym work, road running and haka and waiata practices. Each wānanga is an intense weekend of learning and training.
Being a kaihoe is not only enjoyable, it’s a positive challenge and responsibility. “It’s about the bringing together of proud men who are very much involved in our culture,” Anaru says.
“Being a kaihoe means you can use all you have been taught around waka and take that into everyday life. When waters are sometimes rough, everyone needs to work together to help the waka get through the rough water. Same applies with life.”
Anaru says he feels “proud and humble” to be going to London for the Diamond Jubilee as a kaihoe. It will be an experience that he will be able to share with his kids as an example that “they can do anything”.
The Toi Māori waka taua Te Hono ki Aotearoa is on permanent loan to the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden. It was built as a Waka for Europe and can be used as a vehicle to promote Māori arts, culture and New Zealand at events throughout Europe.
The involvement of the waka in the Diamond Jubilee pageant has been funded by the New Zealand government. Officials from Te Puni Kōkiri; Te Manatū Taonga the Ministry for Culture and Heritage; and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have assisted with arrangements.