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Waka builders in Washington DC to document Hawaiian wa’a

23 August 2019

The wa’a was revealed to NZMACI carvers during the Tuku Iho l Living Legacy exhibition - an international cultural engagement and events programme - at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC in July 2017.


The three will spend almost two weeks with representatives from the museum and two wa’a experts from Hawaii to document the canoe’s construction and help revitalise the ancient craft.


James says the canoe is reputed to be the oldest existing documented Hawaiian wa’a in the world. It is made from lashed planks, a construction technique now dormant in Oceania.


“The ancient canoe incorporates a longstanding knowledge of engineering, combined with “new” materials and techniques from the mid-1880s, when this wa’a was likely built. The canoe itself is a lens into the past.


“To come together from different points of the Pacific, to have this conversation, and share our views on canoe building is an honour and a once in a lifetime opportunity for myself and my students.”


As part of the project, the conversation between the carvers will be recorded, with the aim of later producing a film to convey the knowledge generated to a wider audience.

To learn more about the Waka school, click here: