Folklore has it that the original Maori traveled to Aotearoa from Havaiki on board several canoes, or waka. Each waka had a name, arrived at different times and landed at different parts of the islands now known as New Zealand.
Today Maori tribes, or iwi, can trace their genealogy back to the settlers who arrived on each waka.
A couple weeks ago I was in Hastings, home of the iwi Ngati Kahungunu, to celebrate their waka – Takitimu. At a cultural summit held during this four-day festival, a church minister from the Cook Islands got up and told us the history of this waka.
Takitimu was built in Samoa (Havaiki?) by two brothers, he said. After it was crafted, the brothers fought over something – I was sitting at the back of the room and didn’t quite catch what they were fighting about – but I did hear that the waka was then sent to Fiji for some reason, where it stayed for ten years.
When it finally left Fiji, it was accompanied by other canoes and traveled to various islands in the Pacific, dropping people off along the way, till it reached the part of NZ’s north island now known as Hawkes Bay.
As with all oral histories, there are many different versions of the Takitimu story, but the Takitimu Festival held in Hastings a couple weeks ago was billed ‘a massive family reunion‘ and welcomed guests and performers from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii, Tahiti and Samoa.
Don’t be surprised if I mention the Takitimu Festival a couple hundred more times in my next few entries. I enjoyed the event that much!
But the biggest thing I took away from that experience is a renewed fascination for Polynesian history and stories like this that remind us of our shared heritage…