More Top Stories

Rugby Union

Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

‘Whakaura’ to connect Pasifika youth to their voyaging roots

Monday 2 October 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Art, Features


‘Whakaura’ to connect Pasifika youth to their voyaging roots
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 Voyaging.

"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.