Waka Captain leads River Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant ‘Link to Aotearoa’
Kaitaia resident Chapman Harrison stands tall as kaihautū (leader) of the ceremonial waka taua (war canoe) Te Hono ki Aotearoa / The Link to New Zealand; literally and figuratively.
“Chappy” will captain the waka taua as it takes part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant in what is probably the largest flotilla ever to sail down the River Thames in London.
Te Hono ki Aotearoa will be one of more than 1,000 vessels in a flotilla taking part in the 4-hour formal procession. Chappy will lead the crew of 14 kaihoe that will represent New Zealand in the Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on 3 June.
As he prepares to fly out to London on 29 May, Chappy is excited about the upcoming experience of “taking waka to the world, proud and strong”. He says it makes him feel “proud to be Māori, Kiwi and a New Zealander”.
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 session is an intense weekend of learning and training.
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.
Chappy began his involvement with waka 34 years ago with his parents, on trips to Waitangi. He remembers his first role in a waka, as a seven-year-old, was as a bailer.
When asked what he enjoys most about being a kaihoe he replies simply; “Everything. The haka, hoe, whanaungatanga and oneness with the waka.”
The upcoming trip to London is Chappy’s fourth overseas as kaihautū for a Toi Māori waka taua. His role as kaihautu is one he holds with pride: “Leadership on waka helps me relate to people in my professional world.”
Respecting others is important, even if they have a different world view. “But once we are on (the same) kaupapa we all have one intention, passion and objective,” Chappy says.
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