ROBERT GABEL Kaupapa Waka
1)WAITANGI WAKA PAGEANT
My involvement in waka began after the arrival of the Hokule’a at Waitangi in 1985. A chance meeting with Hekenukumai Puhipi while inspecting the Hokule’a at the Waitangi Marae began my journey in waka. I shared a strong interest in the achievements of the crew of the Hokule’a. Sometime later Hekenukumai approached me to assist him with the administration of waka projects that he was involved in. One of which was the building of a voyaging waka to sail from Aotearoa to Rarotonga.
The first of those projects was the building of Mātaatua Puhi for the 1990 Sesquicentennial Commemorations at Waitangi. At this event I observed the absolute splendour of 22 waka lined up on Te Tii Beach, Waitangi. It was a source of pride and a powerful display of the mana of nga iwi Maori in Aotearoa.The 1990 Sesquicentennial Commemorations further instilled in me the significance of waka in Te Ao Maori. The Commemorations were also the catalyst for Hekenukumai to continue on his journey of building waka for various hapū and waka groups around Aotearoa and also in Hawaii.
While my initial involvement began as an administrator of the projects Hekenukumai was undertaking I also was included in the trainings and navigation wānanga which culminated in being selected to be a crew member on some of the overseas voyages.
In the years after 1990 the Waitangi Waka Pageant has evolved from having only Ngātokimatawhaorua on the water to including up to 23 waka taking part. That is, from one waka taua to having up to eight waka taua, another 14 waka tētē and 2 or 3 waka hourua. Further since 2008 waka tētē and waka tangata have been included in the event which has allowed women to participate as paddlers on Waitangi Day.
The Waitangi Waka Pageant is the showcase of waka in Aotearoa and it is an opportunity for kaihoe to demonstrate the skills, the culture, and the Kaupapa relating to waka. The pageant is well supported by all the local waka groups who have this event on their annual calendar. Many waka groups from throughout Aotearoa come to Waitangi to participate and it has become a pageant of national significance.
From this pageant kaihoe are selected to make up waka crews for the international events that Toi Maori Aotearoa participate in. These events include the Eternal Thread in San Francisco, the Americas Cup Yachting Event in Valencia, the handover of Te Hono ki Aotearoa in the Netherlands, the City of London Festival in England, the Queen’s Jubilee in England, the Great War Passchendale Commemoration in Belguim, and the Book Festival Frankfurt in Germany.
2) NGA WAKA FEDERATION
The first Chairman of Nga Waka Federation was Hohepa Mason of Ngāti Awa. The other founding members were Toko TeKani of Ngāti Porou, Tepene Mamaku of Ngāti Awa, Hekenukumai Puhipi of Ngāti Kahu and xxxxxxx of Ngai te Rangi. The key objectives at the time were to retain and preserve the tikanga of waka protocols and to maintain the skills and knowledge that was recovered as a consequence of the building of waka for the 1990 Sesquicentennial Commemorations. This knowledge had lay dormant for many iwi for over a hundred years. The development of Kaupapa waka since that year has been maintained particularly in Te Tai Tokerau and in the Waikato. Hekenukumai Puhipi has built a number of waka taua and waka tētē over the years following 1990. These waka are smaller and very transportable which has enhanced the Waka Pageant at the Waitangi Commemorations. The building of the waka Te Aurere and its many voyages has also acted as a catalyst to build further waka hourua in Aotearoa and with that, the development and resurgence of waka hourua kaupapa which includes sailing of waka and traditional navigation of the seas without instruments.
As chair of Nga Waka Federation I am a strong advocate of Kaupapa waka particularly in the research and revitalisation of mātauranga waka and the transfer of that knowledge to the younger generation. My on the water role is to provide support and guidance to the kai hautū when and if required. Off the water my role is to select crews to man waka, according to the occasion being celebrated, to ensure all tikanga and protocols are followed including all health and safety requirements. My role also is to ensure logistics relating to provision of waka and kaihoe are adequate. I act as a kaitiaki of waka that are part of the Ngā Waka Federation Kaupapa and I also advise and guide kaihoe in the adherence of tikanga and protocols relevant to waka.
The role of a kaihautū is to lead the crew by example both on and off the water. The skills of kaihautū include the ability to consistently make the correct decision at the correct time. The kaihautū by making these decisions will gain the respect of the crew which is imperative as a kaihautū. The pertinent characteristics of a kaihautū is to be able to be flexible, consider all factors relevant and make the correct decision accordingly.
When selecting kaihoe for training an assessment of the occasion to be celebrated is made and a matrix of skills required is developed. For Toi Māori events invariably require a strong tikanga base together with on the water experience as a kaihoe. The ability to be an ambassador for Maori is extremely important when representing Toi Maori Aotearoa overseas.
The progression of training once again is tailored to the occasion being celebrated. The requirements of each event may differ, some may be more physically demanding with less cultural requirement, while other events require less physical demands but greater cultural components. The target areas of training vary depending on the respective skills of each kaihoe and the occasion being celebrated. However, discipline and the ability to work in a team are important attributes that are sought after.
3)THE LIVING ART
The many dimensions of waka include all aspects of Maori Society. This is better described as Kaupapa Waka and includes not only the tikanga of waka but all cultural practices that are encompassed in Te Ao Māori.
The significance of waka taua is that it carries the mana of its iwi, leaders and people. The waka taua is more elaborately carved, one of its original purposes was to carry warriors to battle. Nowadays it is used in significant ceremonial occasions to showcase the mana of the iwi.
The waka hourua in Aotearoa has resulted in the revival of knowledge of traditional navigation by the stars and elements including birds and mammals, the sailing of waka overseas particularly to and around the Pacific.
The waka ama, while encompassing many aspects of tikanga is a paddling sport focussed on participation by all members of the whānau. It has become one of the fastest growing sports in Aotearoa and has participant nations throughout the Pacific and is expanding across the world.
I believe a National organisation such as Toi Māori or a regional waka organisation can provide an infrastructure to assist and support the various waka groups that practise Kaupapa waka. Many of the waka groups lack formal structures to enable access to support that is needed.
The waka Whakaangi was built at Aurere in 2009 by Hekenukumai Puhipi and Heemi Eruera. The waka was launched at Waitangi on the 5th February 2010. The launching protocols were overseen by Pouroto Ngaropo, Tepene Mamaku, Rima Edwards and Hekenukumai Puhipi.
The primary activities of Whakaangi are to provide an opportunity for youth to practise Kaupapa waka at Waitangi day commemorations and other events where the mana of iwi, hapū and whānau can be showcased. The waka has over the years participated in many events of National and Regional interest such as the Rugby World Cup, the filming of a number of documentaries, the Taipā bridge opening, training and preparing crew for overseas events such as the handover of Te Hono ki Aotearoa and the Queen’s Jubilee on the River Thames.
The waka Whakaangi is 14 metres long and seats 16 kaihoe together with the Kaihautū. The waka was carved out of a kauri tree sourced from the Ngaiotonga forest with the agreement of Te Kapotai in the Bay of Islands. The tauihu is carved in the Ngāti Kahu carving design and the waka is one of only two waka taua with that design. The other being Te Hono ki Aotearoa in the Netherlands. The waka in the Netherlands is an exact replica of Whakaangi and both waka were made from that same kauri tree.
WAKA TAUA ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
The waka Te Hono ki Aotearoa has innovated some of the traditions and customs of waka taua, however it has also reinforced existing traditions. The carvings of the waka include Ngāti Kahu carvings to ensure the waka has a spiritual and physical link to the iwi who presented the waka to the Netherlands. The waka is available to the Dutch crew to use in the Netherlands, however there are strict protocols around the use which must be in accordance with waka tikanga we have in Aotearoa. The waka in the Netherlands demonstrates that Kaupapa waka can be adapted to new horizons without compromising cultural integrity.
The Aotearoa waka crews for Te Hono ki Aotearoa comprise of kaihoe from all iwi of the motu. The concept of waka has not changed, however the global exposure has necessitated the definitions and function of waka to be more carefully reviewed. The journey of the waka on the global stage has exposed Te Ao Māori, the art, the culture and the traditions to the world.