The Maori WAKA



If you want to understand a culture and its many layers it helps to ask about the art. By taking on a study of the meanings of symbols, the use of patterns and the placement of the animal and sea world creatures in art can bring us closer to a people. This is true for first nations and indigenous people in Canada. It is also true of Maori.

When we traveled to New Zealand, or Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, we paid special attention to their art. Their style and its meanings had very similar connections to the art of the pacific northwest. Their use of canoe’s, of weaponry, of totemic structures, the patterns we have come to know as form line, the use of Ovoids, U-shapes and fierce expressions is not far from our approach to art. We have commonalities that stretch across the cosmological and spiritual realm. But we were particularly fascinated with the canoe, what the Maori call their Waka.

The Maori have stories that connect them directly to water. Their story is that of mass migration, from Islands in the mid pacific to the southern hemisphere paddling there in many canoes. Their settlement in the south pacific took place over several hundred years, eventually inhabiting the rivers and lakes of Aotearoa.

Each Maori person we met, whether a lawyer, a judge or a wood carver, would all refer to their lives as a journey, a journey that was usually taken in a Waka. Families can be referred to as a Waka. Time in school, in training or apprenticeship, a Waka. A court trial, a Waka. Attaining a University education, a Waka. Interestingly, their clan affiliations are also linked to the main canoe families that arrived on the island nation 25 generations ago. This is one of the principal reasons why SAMAQAN Water Stories went to New Zealand. There was a spiritual purpose behind their story. We had to capture it and to share it with our Canadian audiences. Now it is here on our website to share with the world.

In this weeks webisode you will hear from Joe Conrad, a cultural knowledge keeper and a captain of the Waka. You will also meet James Rickard, an accomplished artist and carver. From these two individuals we gain a better understanding of Maori art and by extension, their culture. They helped to de-mystify the art form for us as it relates to the Waka.

While we decided not to make The Waka part of the TV component, we felt  the mini-documentary had greater ability as a user experience and therefore capable of making an impact as a standalone inside of our web component. You may hear words not immediately comprehensible. On this site you can play it again and again. You could further explore the INTERNET with some of the words you hear or see. 

In the final analysis the Maori and the indigenous people of north America have more in common than we would like to think. Most of the time the affinity to water is a common human thread that binds us as one cohesive family. The more we understand and appreciate the importance of our connections to water, the greater our ability to contribute to the nurturing of a healthier planet.