When I finally worked up enough courage and was about to depart my birth town of Waipawa in Central Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, I went to see a dear friend, Manu Moana, one of my mentors.
Something he said then has stayed with me. “So boy,” he said. “You’re off to Hawaiki.”
I just looked at him and shrugged my shoulders.
He looked at me and said: “Where is Hawaiki?”
Again I shrugged my shoulders.
Then he said: “Your mum talks about her birthplace, Rarotonga, and its beauty and the fond memories. And I believe your father talked the same way about his home island Mangaia.” My father had passed away years earlier. He said: “I’m sure when you leave this place where you were born, your thoughts will be of your tutapuwaewae, Waipawa, your awa, where you learnt to swim, hunt for eels, kourawai, trout, pick puha and watercress for a boilup or hangi. Your moana, pourere, where your father taught you to fish, dive for kina, paua, koura, spear moke and other delicacies. Your kainga, where your family will still be. Yes, your thoughts will at times wander back to those things you leave behind and your youth.”
Then he said: “HA: the breath of life. WAI: the water of life. Whaka-KI te Tinana. Fill your body with these essences of air and water. HA-WAI-KI.”
He told me it was a metaphor, of a place in your heart that feels where you come from, where you took your first breath. HA. Where you took your first life giving water. WAI. Where you were moulded by your surroundings and those who touched you, and there are many Hawaiki, depending on who you talk to.
I arrived here in April 1987 and within the first five months I travelled to seven islands within the Cooks group.
In 1989 I met Sir Tom Davis, affectionately known as Papa Tom, and in 1995 I sailed with Papa Tom on board the Vaka Te Au o Tonga. We were accompanied by our Vaka Takitumu, which was the first vaka moana I sailed on, and joined by four other voyaging vaka for the trip from Ra’iatea, Tahiti-nui, Nukuhiva, and then to Hawai’i.
On the island of Nukuhiva I was lucky enough to be within earshot of an interview that was taking place between Papa Tom and a journalist. I heard the journalist ask Papa Tom: “What are you trying to prove on this trip? Are you looking for your ancient Polynesian homeland of Hawai’i?”
Papa Tom said to the gentleman: ‘Where do you come from and where were you brought up?”
The gentlemen replied: “Oregon, born and bred.”
Papa then said: “If you are away too long do you get homesick?”
The gentleman replied: “Yes, I do.”
Then Papa said: “Oregon is your Hawai’i.”
Those words made me truly understand. They confirmed my belief in Hawai’i. I have spent many years now and many nautical miles travelling the Moana Nui a Kiva on Vaka Moana, and have listened to many different interpretations of Hawai’i and its many variants.
Many years ago I put pen to paper and co-wrote my wish for a name change. With the large area that our 15 Pa Enua inhabits, the name that has often come to me is Avaiki te Varinga Nui. Avaiki of the vast expanse.
Yes, it’s long, but United States of America has more letters. The word Hawaiki has many variants, like Savai’i, Hawaiki Nui, which I believe was Rai’atea, Hawaiki Raro, Hawaiki Runga, Hawaiki Tautau, and the list goes on. But Avaiki te Varinga Nui is ours.
I’m sure that if it is selected to be a new name, it will be shortened in speech but I feel the full name should be retained on an international level. I have done some form of art for most of my life and I have discovered that an artist must always be in control as too much outside input can “spoil the broth”, so to speak.
I just thought I would throw my two cents’ worth into this name change debate.
Te tini Pekepo