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Celebrating 30 years of raising awareness of Polynesian voyaging

Saturday 6 August 2022 | Written by Te Ipukarea Society | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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Celebrating 30 years of raising awareness of Polynesian voyaging
Alanna Smith, Deon Wong, Tuaineiti Ngamata and Kelvin Passfield on board the Marumaru Atua. Photo: TIS/22080519

2022 marks the 30th anniversary of a great friend of Te Ipukarea Society, the Cook Islands Voyaging Society (CIVS).

For 30 years, CIVS has been actively engaged in raising awareness of Polynesian voyaging. The sixth Pacific Arts Festival which was held on Rarotonga in 1992 was the catalyst for the creation of CIVS and then in 1994, Sir Thomas Davis, the head of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society, led the design and build of Te Au O Tonga – a 72’ double hulled voyaging canoe or ‘vaka’.

After many successful voyages, Te Au O Tonga was used as a model to build a fleet of seven double hulled canoes by Salthouse Boatbuilders in Auckland, funded by the Okeanos Foundation. This work was supervised by Te Ipukarea Society’s president at that time, and also president of the voyaging society, Ian Karika. The Cook Islands own vaka Marumaru Atua was the first of these to be completed in 2009 and Te Ipukarea Society recently returned from Suwarrow aboard her with the CIVS crew, completing our Race Against Time (RAT) eradication programme.

For us here at TIS, and for all Cook Islanders and Pasifika peoples including our kōpū tangata from Aotearoa, and especially for those involved with the Cook Islands Voyaging Society, our vaka Marumaru Atua is not just a boat. It is our island, a voyaging island that allows us to retrace the ways of our tupuna. It is as our 'enua is to us – a place that keeps us safe in the vast expanse of Te Moana-nui-a-kiva.

When aboard our vaka, we feel safe. We treat her with the utmost respect and aro’a. The second she is in need of repair, we oblige. Whether it’s training while docked in the harbour, or on a voyage to Suwarrow or even across Polynesia, the CIVS crew and anyone aboard prioritise the maintenance and upkeep of our vaka – because if she is kept safe, she will keep us safe.

While CIVS is voyaging on the vaka Marumaru Atua, water is rationed carefully. While out at sea, crew only wash in salt water. Nothing inorganic is discarded overboard, all waste is compacted and stored so that it can be dealt with safely and sustainably on dry land.

For us, this philosophy which is instilled aboard Marumaru Atua by CIVS, is very much aligned with our purpose here at Te Ipukarea Society. If we treat our vaka like an island – protecting her, maintaining her, keeping her safe with aro’a and hard work – then there’s no reason we shouldn’t treat our 'enua the same way.

Thirty years after the creation of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society, there is only one double hulled, ocean going vaka sailing in our waters – Marumaru Atua. And just like our planet, our one and only planet, she needs to be protected, cared for and kept safe so that she may keep us safe.

Here at Te Ipukarea Society, we treasure our relationship with Marumaru Atua and the Cook Islands Voyaging Society. Together we are guardians of our Moana-nui-a-kiva. We wish to congratulate CIVS on their 30th anniversary. May we continue to work together for many more years to come. Kia orana e kia manuia.