04 March 2010

“Cook Islanders were vaka voyaging in modern times”

The Mauke vaka "Maire Nui" in 1992. Photo: Ewan Smith

“Faery Lands of the South Seas” is one of the many books in our collection by the famous writing partners, James Norman Hall & Charles B Nordhoff, both of whom lived in Tahiti. The book was serialised in Harpers Magazine in 1920-21 then published in book form (Harper and Brothers, USA, 1921).
One passage in the book describes a double-hulled canoe on Mauke.

We were strolling up the path between the canoe houses when Riley stopped me. “Come and have a look,” he said; “this is the only island I know of where
you can see an old-fashioned double canoe.”
There were two of them in the shed we entered under a roof of battered galvanized iron – long, graceful hulls fashioned from the trunks of trees, joined in pairs by timbers of ironwood laid across the gunwales and lashed down with sinnet. They were beautifully finished – scraped smooth and decorated with carving. In these craft, my companion told me, the men of Mauke still voyage to Atiu and Mitiaro, as they had done for generations before Cook sailed through the group.

In 1992 vaka building and voyaging experienced a resurgence in the Cook Islands when the country hosted the sixth Festival of Pacific Arts. Many southern group islands built vaka and sailed them to Rarotonga for the opening of the festival in October 1992.
The Mauke canoe, Maire Nui, is pictured above under sail in an atmospheric photograph by Ewan Smith.
On its 240km journey from Mauke it broke a boom, which halved the speed of travel to about 4 knots, but the boat arrived safely with a happy though exhausted crew.
After the festival the Maire Nui languished in a tin shed at the old Kia Orana food factory until the government property corporation decided it needed the shed for other purposes. The vaka, by now somewhat dilapidated, was moved outside.

The Mauke vaka "Maire Nui" in 2005.

The library and Mr T (Ti Pekepo) wanted to build a lean-to in the library’s garden area and teach local youth to renovate and then sail the boat, but no funding was available. Maire Nui was relocated to Mr T’s property where he works on it when he has time.
The tin shed is still standing although the Kia Orana factory has now been demolished.


KAURI said...

What an awsome canoe.Great job to the people of Mauke.But sadly canoe building the(traditional way)is a dying art along with the knowledge of the master canoe builders.Who will show and teach our children the way it was done.Sure we have books and museums but that may not be enough.So to you Mr T Pekepo maybe you could use Maire Nui to teach our future generation.KIA MANUIA!!

Anonymous said...

What an awsome canoe,top marks to the people of Mauke.But sadly canoe building the 'traditional way' is a dying art along with the knowlegde of the master canoe builders.Who will show and teach our future generation how it was really done.Sure we have books,dvds,museums,but that may not be enough.So to you Mr.T.Pekepo maybe you could use Maire Nui as a lerning tool for our future generation.KIA MANUIA!!