Born into waka
The eldest son of well-known waka exponent Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr; Namaka Barclay-Kerr says he was born into waka.
“The first time I set foot in a waka was when my dad made me bailer on his waka taua Taheretikitiki down at Tūrangawaewae,” Namaka remembers.
“The first time I paddled a waka, we were going on holiday down in Whakatāne and we stopped at Maketū, took two single waka and he taught me how to paddle in a little lagoon.”
Those first paddles for Namaka started at five-years-old. Now 23, he has paddled in many ceremonies and racing events around the world and is preparing to travel to London at the end of this month.
Namaka is part of the 14-man crew of the ceremonial waka taua Te Hono ki Aotearoa/The Link to New Zealand which is representing New Zealand at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. 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 Thames.
Having his eyes opened to the many different kinds of water transport and learning about the different styles of how other iwi hoe (paddle) their waka is something that Namaka is looking forward to.
Being a kaihoe has challenges, including getting past the physical and mental fatigue as well as getting all of the actions right. But it is a very positive experience for Namaka.
“I enjoy being out on the open ocean, racing, and also doing cultural waka activities like big ceremonies at Waitangi and the Coronation. I enjoy reliving and doing something that our ancestors used to do before us.”
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.
Kaupapa waka also keeps Namaka connected to his reo Māori. “For me, it’s kind of the only thing that keeps me using the reo and also doing waka taua really makes me think of what history lies within all the waka I go on and makes me proud to carry on its kōrero.”
Namaka’s family and friends think his role as a kaihoe on Te Hono ki Aotearoa at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is “awesome” and “an honour”. For Namaka; “it’s an awesome feeling representing us as Māori.”