A brotherhood at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
Kaitaia resident Kevin Harrison has been paddling in waka only since the late 1990s. But already, his passion has taken him to Leiden in the Netherlands and now he’s preparing to travel to London.
The 21-year-old is one of 14 kaihoe (paddlers) that will row the ceremonial waka taua (war canoe) Te Hono ki Aotearoa / The Link to New Zealand in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames on 3 June (UK time).
Kevin was introduced to paddling through his whānau and going to Waitangi. What’s enjoyable about it is “the brotherhood with other kaihoe and the opportunities that waka provides”.
Being a kaihoe means he’s “meeting new people and going to different places which helps me to understand myself.”
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. It 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.
Kevin was in the kaihoe crew at the waka handover ceremony in Leiden in October 2010. But this is his first time to London. Kevin says he’s looking forward to being in the waka on the River Thames. “It will give me an idea on what London is like; also rowing on different waters is an experience.”