As told by Robert Gabel, Chair of Ngā Waka Federation.
“The tree is estimated to be 700 to 800 years old. It is the same tree that my waka was made from, that is, Hector made two waka from the same tree.
The side strakes (rauawa) were made from a tree that had already fallen and was lying near the tree that the waka were made from.
The taurapa (stern post) has two ribs that represent the life principles of the gods and man. There are three manaia (lizard/bird form) contained in the taurapa; one represents spirituality and immortality, one represents death and the other represents the spiritual underworld. The human figure at the base usually represents an ancestor that is relevant to the people of the waka.
Taurapa of Leiden waka
The tauihu (prow) has four manaia that represent the spirit world and give direction to the waka when on the water. The mauri, the life force of the waka, can be anywhere that one touches the waka. Some say the mauri is felt in the taurapa, but to many, it is in the tauihu because this is where one presses noses (hōngi) with the facial figure on the front of the waka, imbuing the waka with the breath of life.
Tauihu of Leiden waka taua Te Hono ki Aotearoa
On my waka (Whakaangi): this was the first place to be blessed.
Whakaangi Waka Taua being blessed at Waitangi
On the waka Te Hono ki Aotearoa: the whole waka was blessed and then touched by all.
Te pāna o ngā ringa ki te waka hou
The facial figure on the front of the waka is a representation of Tūmatauenga who represents war. His position on the waka is to warn Tangaroa (god of the sea) that man is passing over him. Some of our people believe that the facial figure at the tauihu (prow) of the waka is where the mauri (life force) of the waka is contained.
James Molenaar giving final touches to the kanohi on the advice of Hector Busby
The rauawa (side strakes) have both manaia and tiki (human facial form), which represent both the spirit world and the world of man. It portrays mans association with spirituality.