Festival brings waka together from across Aotearoa

Continuing its mission to showcase mātauranga waka, Te Hau Kōmaru has announced its third Waka Hourua Festival, which is heading to the South Island for the first time in 2024.

Taking place at Kaiteretere harbour from April 7 to 14, the festival will bring together waka from across Aotearoa in celebration of waka hourua.

Te Hau Kōmaru, in partnership with Te Tai o Awatea Trust, expects upwards of 3000 attendees. Local iwi and residents of Te Tauihu o te Waka a Maui are invited to attend to reconnect with and discover mātauranga waka.

Te Hau Kōmaru National Waka Hourua Charitable Trust co-chair Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr says the success of the festival will be measured by the way those who engage with the kaupapa protect, practise and celebrate the use of the mātauranga waka.

“The significance of taking the festival and the waka hourua to Te Tauihu o te Waka a Maui is vital to the kaupapa and what it represents. Travelling to the region also gives us a chance to remember kaumātua like John Ward-Holmes, who was a great supporter of kaupapa waka.”

The festival will follow the success of those in Tauranga and Kāwhia in 2021 and 2022.

“When the board was established in 2021, it was agreed that each year a festival took place, it would travel to one of the four different coasts of Aotearoa,” Barclay-Kerr says. “This being the third instalment, it was time that the waka sailed to the south to share and connect with the iwi down there.”

Kaiteretere sits in the region known as Te Tauihu o te Waka a Maui, the bow of the canoe of the great navigator Maui. The area is rich with history, which Barclay-Kerr says makes it the perfect location for the festival.

“The name Te Tauihu o te Waka a Maui reminds us, as navigators, of the origins of our mātauranga waka, hailing from the master navigator himself, Maui. All his stories of finding Aotearoa remind us of our navigational past and visiting Te Tauihu o te Waka a Maui and Kaiteretere will remind us of those stories.”

The week-long festival will reignite kōrero tukuiho and the ancestral practices of sailing and navigation.

With the hope of sparking important conversation around their regional nautical history, Barclay-Kerr says Te Hau Kōmaru Board is excited to connect with the iwi in Te Tauihu to hear the stories of how they have preserved taonga and mātauranga associated with waka hourua.

Festival-goers will have the opportunity to learn from waka practitioners about sailing, navigation and all things integral to understanding mātauranga waka hourua. Festival organisers hope that connecting and sharing these practices with the community will help preserve the knowledge.