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Vaka building project canoes to be launched on Thursday

Tuesday 14 February 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Culture, Local, National

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Vaka building project canoes to be launched on Thursday
Te Mana o te Vaka boat building project will launch its nine canoes on Thursday. 23021312

Te Mana o te Vaka boat building and sailing project will launch nine single-hull dugout canoes at Avarua harbour this Thursday at 4pm.

Led by master carver Ta’unga Michael Tavioni, the project started last in September and is a collaboration between the Cook Islands Voyaging Society (CIVS) and Gallery Tavioni & Vananga.

Tavioni said eight of the nine vaka belong to the Mana o te Vaka and one to the Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute (CITTI).

“They will all be launched together and everyone is welcome to come along to watch. The two main key things are these vaka are sustainable and environmentally friendly but whether people care or not, I don’t care…” said Tavioni. “It’s not for my benefit.”

Carver James Mani uses the chainsaw to help complete the build of the vaka. 23021310
Carver James Mani uses the chainsaw to help complete the build of the vaka. 23021310

At the launch, the names of each canoe which will be carved or painted on them, will be announced.

Two of the vaka will be up for sale to help cover the costs of completing the project, said Tavioni.

“People have already purchased products needed to complete the project, they have dug into their own pockets and everyone is working with no pay,” he said.

James Mani and David Maruariki flew in from Auckland last week to assist with the completion of the vaka. They will return to New Zealand on Friday.

“They’re more like our sons, I’ve trained them since they were 10/11 years old and I’ve taken them with me since 1999 every year to Hawaii to carve,” said Tavioni.

“They’re committed loyal and dedicated and they paid their own airfares to come back and help finish.”

Over the past few weeks, the finishing touches to the vaka have been done including the hulls being widened using the process of heating rocks and laying them inside the vaka while it is filled with water, decorative carvings, carving of the paddles, and lashing for the ama and sails.

Te Mana O Te Vaka Project was initiated to reintroduce traditional carving methods and to preserve indigenous culture. 

The vaka will be used by the Cook Islands Voyaging Society for vaka sailing training programmes.