Celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee in waka taua; uniquely Aotearoa
Of Samoan-Chinese whakapapa Fuifui Teevale says being a kaihoe on the waka taua Te Hono ki Aotearoa which will represent New Zealand at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant is a “once in a life time experience”.
The 34-year-old father has been paddling for five years. “I was first introduced to waka ama, through my partners’ family, and then later got involved with waka taua at Waitangi Day.”
He is now preparing to travel to London at the end of this month as part of the 14-man kaihoe crew 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.
The waka taua 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.
Te Hono ki Aotearoa was constructed by Toi Māori and is on permanent loan to the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden, Holland. 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.
Fuifui has already been kaihoe on Te Hono ki Aotearoa two times. The first in 2010 when the waka taua was handed over to the Volkenkunde Museum; the second in 2011 when the waka took part in the City of London Festival and sailed on the River Thames.
Everything Fuifui has learned and experienced as a kaihoe has been positive on many levels. “I enjoy knowing that I am learning skills and knowledge passed down through the generations. Already my six-year-old son has taken an interest in kaupapa waka and that is something I am very proud of.”
There are the usual challenges about being a kaihoe such as time commitments and organisation of work and family but it is “really a small hurdle to get over,” Fuifui says.
Being of Samoan-Chinese heritage, Fuifui says that kaupapa waka allows him another avenue to experience Māori tikanga and te reo. “My children attend kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa and Māori and Samoan are their first languages,” he says. “Being involved with waka allows me to be immersed in a natural environment where tikanga and reo are practiced.”
In preparation for the upcoming River Thames Pageant, Fuifui has shed 10kgs and has made fantastic connections with other kaihoe both within Aotearoa and internationally.
“It is a real honour to represent Aotearoa at the Pageant, especially through kaupapa waka. My family and friends think it’s great to see us support this celebration in a way that is unique to Aotearoa.”