Waka (canoe)

Waka (canoe)

In the Māori language and New Zealand English, waka (IPA:IPA|wɔka) are Māori watercraft, usually canoes ranging in size from small, unornamented canoes (waka tīwai) used for fishing and river travel, to large decorated war canoes (waka taua) up to 40 metres long. In recent years, large double-hulled canoes of considerable size have been constructed for oceanic voyaging to other parts of the Pacific. [The plural is also "waka". Similar craft are encountered elsewhere in Polynesia, with cognate names such as "vaka", "wa'a", or "va'a"]

Waka taua (war canoes)

Waka taua (war canoes) are large canoes manned by up to 80 paddlers and are up to 40 metres in length. Many are single-hulled vessels made from a hollowed-out tree trunk. Large waka, which are usually elaborately carved and decorated, may consist of several jointed pieces lashed together. The resurgence of Māori culture has seen an increase in the numbers of waka taua built, generally on behalf of a tribal group, for use on ceremonial occasions.

Ocean-going canoes

:"See also Māori migration canoes" (sub-tribes). Consequently the word "waka" is used to denote a confederation of iwi descended from the people of one migratory canoe. The waka had many uses, including fishing, and was used in everyday life by the Maori, to search for food.

Waka ama (outrigger canoes)

Early European explorers saw Māori using waka ama (outrigger canoes). "Sydney Parkinson, an artist on Captain James Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand in 1769, and the German scientist Johann Reinhold Forster, who sailed with Cook in 1773, described waka fitted with outriggers (ama, amatiatia or korewa)". [Barclay-Kerr, 2007] Already rare in Cook's time, waka ama had largely faded from memory by the early 19th century (Howe 2006:87). However, the term 'waka ama' occurs in old stories, such as the story of Māui published by in Grey in 1854 and in a few old waiata; Tregear also mentions the waka ama as 'a possession of the Maori', adding that 'It was beneath the outrigger of such a canoe that the famous Maui crushed his wife's brother Irawaru before turning him into a dog. Both the double canoe and that with the outrigger have entirely disappeared from among the Maoris, and it is doubtful if any native now alive has seen either of them in New Zealand' (Tregear 1904:115). The Māori words for the parts of the outrigger, such as 'ama' and 'kiato', recorded in the early years of European settlement, suggest that Māori outrigger canoes were similar in form to those known from central Polynesia. [The story of Māui as written by Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikaheke refers to ama in sentences such as 'hei roto koe, hei te ama o to taua waka' (published by Grey in Nga Mahi a Nga Tupuna, 1971:20, translated by Grey as "You get under the outrigger of the canoe ..." Grey, Polynesian Mythology, 1974:40).]

In recent years, waka ama racing, introduced from Pasifika nations into New Zealand during the 1980s and 1990s, using high-tech canoes of Hawaiian or Tahitian design, and supported with the ingenious support of work schemes, has become an increasingly popular sport in New Zealand, often performed as part of larger festivals.

Other materials used

Some waka, particularly in the Chatham Islands, were not conventional canoes, but were constructed from raupo (bulrushes) or flax stalks.

Related meanings

The word 'waka' is also used in broader senses that can be translated as 'container', 'vessel' or 'vehicle'. A 'waka huia' is a hollowed and carved vessel used for storing of taonga (treasures) such as the prized tail feathers of the now-extinct huia bird that are worn as ornaments in the hair. In current Māori usage, waka is used to refer to cars, along with the transliterated term 'motokā' (motorcar). The neologism 'waka-rere-rangi' (literally: waka (vehicle) that sails the sky) was coined for aircraft. A 'waka hari hino', (vessel that carries oil) is an oil tanker; a 'waka niho' (gear container) is a car's gearbox.

ee also

*Outrigger Canoe
*Polynesian Voyaging Society

References & Notes

*cite web |author=Barclay-Kerr, Hoturoa |date=2007 |title=Waka – canoes |work=Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand |publisher=Updated 13 April 2007 |url=http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/EarthSeaAndSky/SeaAndAirTransport/WakaCanoes/en|accessdate=2007-09-20
*G. Grey, (1971). "Nga Mahi a Nga Tupuna", fourth edition. First published 1854. Reed.
*K.R. Howe (Ed.), (2006). "Vaka Moana - Voyages of the Ancestors". David Bateman.
*cite web |author=Edward Robert Tregear |date=1904 |title="The Māori Race" |work= |publisher=Archibald Dudingston Willis:Wanganui |url=http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-TreRace.html|accessdate=2007-09-02

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