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Call for voyaging knowledge to be shared

Thursday 23 December 2021 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Culture, National

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Call for voyaging knowledge to be shared
Voyaging sister canoes Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia along with Tahiti vaka Faafaite are soon to arrive in Rarotonga in time for the annual Te Maeva Nui celebrations. 14071419

A newly formed group, Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation, aims to teach traditional wayfinding and are putting the call out to older Cook Islanders to share their voyaging knowledge.

A three-day workshop will be held early next year by the foundation at the Cook Islands National Auditorium, with the goal of compiling star names, constellations, and other navigational names into Cook Islands Maori.

Master navigator, Peia Patai, who co-founded the foundation is asking for people with knowledge on all aspects of voyaging to come forward.

“What we’re asking and begging is let’s come together and let’s collect all of this (information), it’s not about us, it’s about us working hard today for the young ones tomorrow.”

Patai said the time has passed to be selfish with voyaging information.

“We’ve got to break the tapu on this (sharing voyaging information) and just teach,” he said.

“Our older people are going very, very fast so it has become an urgent issue.”

Patai said the information they want to be shared in the workshop is all aspects of voyaging, which includes the art of food preservation and medicines.

Cecile Marten, another co-founder of the foundation, said the agenda of the workshop was there but the most important thing was that the right people came forward to share.

“If you look at the Pukapuka consolation it’s a shark, so there’s a story behind that. So there’s stories out there, legends and myths but they’re actually not legends, they’re actually history books,” Marten said.

The three-day workshop is the start of the bigger dream of the foundation which is to set up a voyaging school. People who join the school will learn the art of traditional wayfinding over two or three years.

Patai said: “We want to put them right through it and in the end give them the results that they become traditional navigators.”

He said the Cook Islands voyaging knowledge was “basically” a lost art and only started again in 1991 after Hawaiians and Micronesians shared their knowledge.

“We’re very appreciative of them not being selfish of that knowledge and passing it on.

“They realised if they do (be selfish) it’s not going to spread again, so it becomes a responsibility for us now that hold the knowledge to pass it on.

“It’s not a favour, it’s a responsibility that we should create this and teach, and teach, and teach… so it does not disappear again.

“We cannot really rely on myself and Tua (Pittman) in doing this, my hair is getting white, so we need to get people in and get our people competent in the art of wayfinding.”

The foundation’s three-day workshop has been funded by the New Zealand High Commission Fund that supports small-scale, short-term community projects.

Approximately $120,000 was given out to the 11 projects that were awarded the grant funding.

Victoria Williams, the executive assistant to the New Zealand High Commissioner, said the theme for this year was “he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata” which translates to “the people, the people, the people” based on a Māori whakatauaki.

“It captures our focus on projects that contribute to community development and wellbeing,” Williams said.

“Whether this is through supporting children and youth, women, people with disabilities, older persons or any other people or groups in the community, or any activity that brings a community-wide benefit.”

Some other groups the grant was given to was the Titikaveka Community, for a project to remove solid waste around residential properties, Aitutaki Fishers, and Growers, to create a local fish market for the Aitutaki community, and Te Vananga Are Tapere O Takitumu, for resources towards the preservation of Cook Islands Māori culture and language.