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Waka Te Hono ki Aotearoa connects Dutch and Māori cultures

E tū i te kei o te waka, kia pākia koe e ngā ngaru o te wā”
“Stand at the stern of the canoe and feel the spray of the future biting at your face”

In 2020, it is the 10-year anniversary since the waka taua (war canoe) Te Hono ki Aotearoa (The Link to New Zealand) was ceremonially gifted, on permanent loan, to the Museum Volkenkunde, the Netherlands Ethnology Museum in Leiden. This is the only waka taua in the Northern Hemisphere.

The late Sir Tā Hekenukumai “Hector” Busby built the waka. It was his 27th waka, and he saw the exchange as part of a bigger intercultural partnership.

To raise awareness of this unique intercultural partnership, the Netherlands Embassy is organising in February three events across the country. This will include film screenings of the documentary “Te Hono ki Aotearoa” by Dutch Kiwi filmmaker Jan Bieringa. The documentary is about the commissioning, the making, and the handover of the ceremonial waka. There will also be panel discussions with Steven Engelsman, the former Director of the Museum Volkenkunde who was involved in the waka project, and a Dutch student member from the waka crew in Leiden.

The events are cohosted with Toi Māori Aotearoa in collaboration with Ms. Bieringa, Waitangi Treaty Grounds and the National Library of New Zealand. The free public screenings will take place in Waitangi on 4 February, Wellington on 11 February, and Takaka, Golden Bay on 18 February.

The Leiden University’s Royal Students Rowing Association ‘Njord’ are the caretakers of Te Hono ki Aotearoa. Each year Dutch students travel to New Zealand to take part in the Waitangi Day waka pageant. The Dutch paddlers are honoured to return to Waitangi year after year for friendship, and a desire to bring deeper knowledge home to Europe’s only waka group.

To enhance these strong people-to-people ties, and in the framework of the recent visit of PM Mark Rutte to NZ, the Embassy has given a grant to Alex Miesen, a Dutch waka member of Njord, to support his attendance to this year’s Waitangi Day celebrations. The New Zealand Embassy in the NL provides an annual grant to a Dutch waka member.

Netherlands Ambassador Mira Woldberg said, “The Dutch students put in a great effort in preserving Māori tradition, language and culture in the Netherlands by diligently taking care of the waka and its cultural ceremonies. They perform and demonstrate their skills and commitment to the waka traditions and meaning for Māori on different occasions in the Netherlands.”

A Toi Māori delegation will head to The Netherlands to take part in the Māori weekend at the Museum Volkenkunde on 2 May 2020. Toi Māori will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the waka by assisting the museum with delivering a public programme on Māori arts. This is also in recognition of the special relationship with the museum and the Njord Rowing Club. Tamahou Temara, the Operations Manager at Toi Māori said, “The waka is the vehicle in keeping these relationships and connections through Māori art, to form the basis of connecting with indigenous cultures such as the Dutch.”

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