The community gets hands on with Whakaura. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Tiana Haxton 23092940
The National Library of New Zealand is hoping to connect Pasifika youth to their Polynesian voyaging history with the launch of an interactive education program. Tiana Haxton of RNZ reports.
As part of this, a four-metre long replica of a traditional
double-hulled vaka has been created in partnership with the
Victoria University School of Design and Innovation.
'Whakaura' was designed and constructed over the
span of 18 months. The twin hulls were 3D printed with recycled and ocean
plastics, and for the rest of the assembly, the team used reclaimed materials
to promote an eco-friendly process.
The Okeanos Foundation for the Sea provided the university
with the digital model of Cook Islands Vaka Te Au O Tonga as a
blueprint for their design.
The vessel has been created as an educational tool to be taken
into schools around New Zealand as a part of an immersive package for youth to
connect to the Moana.
The library's senior education specialist Tereora Crane is
very passionate about sharing the rich indigenous knowledge of our ancestors
with the next generation.
"This knowledge comes from our Pacific worlds and we
are the guardians of it," Crane said.
"If we are gifted with that we should be trying to give
that to as many people in the Pacific as possible and for them to go 'actually
this is part of the history of where I live', so they don't grow up not knowing
those stories and not knowing the richness of this part of the world."
He aspires to inspire Aotearoa youth.
"That's the privelege we have of being story tellers;
to inspire, to agitate our young people to think about 'well if this is in my
backdrop how will I write the next chapter?'"
"[Because] if we cant inspire our young people about
their culture and heritage, why would they care? Why would they, as the future
guardians of that knowledge and cultural practises and science, why would they
care about taking that forward?"
The message resonates deeply with one of the students who
has been involved in the project over the past 10 months.
Lawrence Reid said he dealt with racism growing up, causing
him to feel ashamed and disconnected from his Samoan heritage.
Being involved in the research, design and creation of Whakaura,
Reid discovered great pride for his culture in the stories of Polynesian
"It's really opened my eyes to how amazing we are as
Pacific people and what we've accomplished and no one can take that away from
us," he said.
"It's almost like our birthright to be proud because
these things have already been done and it's up to us to build on that.
"It's really important for the young people to
understand who they are and where they came from," he added.
Whakaura will be transported to Auckland next
week where school outreach programs will begin.
Thousands of students from across New Zealand are already
lined up to receive the program.
Crane has developed a package where students and teachers
alike will be fully involved in the assembly of Whakaura, learning
about the parts of a vaka and their purpose.
"We want to put young people in an opportunity where
they can touch, they can explore and look at what their ancestors did.
There's a whole world of science and engineering which
should be an inspiration along with the stories to our young people to say
'well if that's my heritage, if I'm connected to that, then what should I do
with my life?'"
Crane hopes to make this educational package available to
all Maori and Pasifika youth in Aotearoa, with plans already in place to
construct a second vaka.