In 2012 as the Te Mana O Te Moana voyage was coming to an end, the idea of a reuniting the fleet in the Cook Islands to celebrate the 50th Anniversary was born while sitting round a coffee table at the Lime Lounge, in Honiara, Solomon Islands. In August 2014 the Cook Islands Voyaging Society extended an invitation to the Te Mana O Te Moana Fleet to voyage to the Cook Islands to participate in the “Te Manava Vaka” festival. Once the invites went out came the hard part, what to call this festival, to find a fitting name for this celebration of the vaka.
The word Manava, or Manawa, in Hawaiian is seen as breath… For other Polynesian languages, such as Tongan and Samoan, they have several meanings for this term.
The word Manava is used in several ways meaning belly, stomach or womb. In the Cook Islands Manava is described as heart, soul, body, spirit.
Manava may also be broken into Mana and Va. Mana is a concept common to all Polynesian cultures and means power, essence of power, or creative essence.
We approached one of our Cook Islands Taunga Korero (Orator) Papa Tepoave Raitia. We asked him to give us his interpretation of what MANAVA meant to him…
On asking he responded by saying… “Heart, soul, body, spirit”. then he said… “but in a deeper sense, if you breakdown the word Manava to Mana and va, it has a more deeper meaning”.
“Mana is power, essence of power, tapu/sacredness. Va is space or an area of great expanse or a spiritual place of refuge”.
Before christianity, our tupuna would say their chants and karakia asking for guidance, help, strength, love, protection to a spiritual place. They knew in their hearts that their call was going to a place of spiritual mana, a place where all karakia would be heeded and a place they could draw spiritual comfort from.
So Te Manava Vaka means “The Essence, the heart and soul of our origins of Vaka.”
Te Matau (Aotearoa), Haunui (Aotearoa), Gaualofa (Samoa/Tonga) and the Cook Island’s very own Marumaru Atua set sail from Aotearoa on the 7th of May 2015. Joining them from Tahiti , Faafaite (Tahiti). The vaka arrived in to the Port of Avatiu 17 days later.
These “Vaka Moana” were recreated at Salthouse Boatbuilders in Auckland, their design based on the traditional double-hulled polynesian sailing canoe design Te Au O Tonga (The mist of the South). However, in contrast to traditional vaka with hulls made of one big tree trunk, their hulls are made of E-Glass and Epoxy Resin. All of the 7 Vaka Moana have a set of traditional crab claw booms and a set of offshore rights with reefable Bermuda sails for safety during long voyages. All beams are connected to the hulls through traditional lashings. They require no use of fossil energy as they are purely wind and solar powered. At the same time they are fostering cultural revival, educational opportunities and community empowerment.
During the Te Manava voyage from New Zealand they experienced cold and violent storms to the warm and peaceful calms of this Marae Moana. Our Pacific Ocean is vibrant as it turned from the dark grey of Aotearoa moana to the deep rich blue of our marae. We received many gifts of fish from her depths, we swam in her clear waters and we were graced with the presence of Minke Whales as they swam around our vaka in a curious fashion. Many seabirds accompanied us along the way and just two days ago we started to see the land birds, the tavake, the white tern and this morning the Ngoio or noddy tern.
The caring for these very beings on our ocean and the ocean itself is an important part of the message this voyage, our vakas and crew is carrying to the world, or at least to those who care to listen. We are highlighting how important this Pacific Ocean is to us, the little people who live here. We know that since time began and since our tupuna walked these islands we had our own systems of caring for the land and the waters around us. Today outside influences from the western world are causing a lot of stress on our ocean environment so with our vaka we have been able to attract the attention of scholars and foundations who can make a difference for all of us and our island Earth.
The Te Manava Vaka festival is a celebration of the “The Essence, the heart and soul of our origins of Vaka” and to mark the 50th Anniversary of Self Governance of the Cook Islands and to connect the past with our future (children) through the vaka and to continue to share the message of caring for our environment for our future generations.
The Te Manava Festival was one of the highlights for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations.
Some of the highlights of the festival included:
• The Official Welcome Ceremony – this was marked by the arrival of the 5 vaka in to the sacred passage, Te Ava Tapu. Te Ava Tapu is said to be the historic departure point of the legendary canoes, Aotea, Te Arawa, Kurahaupō, Mātaatua, Tainui, Tākitimu, and Tokomaru. The arrival ceremony was to honour the protocols of the land, the landowners received the vaka in the same way our tupuna would have in the past. The welcome was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, House of Ariki, the Queen’s Representative and over 1,000 school students who performed a group “chant” that was composed especially to welcome the crew. It was important that our children (our future) were there to make that connection and experience firsthand the culture of voyaging as our forefathers would have.
• The launch of the “Vaka $5 coin” at the Office of the Prime Minister. The coin features Marumaru Atua sailing under the Pacific constellations of Matariki, Tautoru (Orion’s Belt) and Taurus. Minister of Finance Mark Brown said it was appropriate that the coin was ready in time for the Vaka festival, to truly celebrate how special the Vaka is to our society.
• The sail to Aitutaki and continuation of the festival there which included a welcome by the whole the island community.
• Te Manava Exhibition –Exhibition at the National Museum of 50 photos of the vaka, voyages and crew.
• The premier of the “Te Mana O Te Moana” feature film documentary of the voyage of the 7 vaka through the Pacific, including mainland USA, Mexico, Cocos Island, Galapagos, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
• The inaugural voyage to Ngaputoru (Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro). Faafaite, Haunui and Te Matau joined Marumaru Atua to Atiu and then Te Matau and Marumaru Atua continued to Mauke then Mitiaro. This was the first time in history four traditional canoes visited the Island of Atiu. On the Ngaputoru leg and we were privileged to have on board our vaka, young crew members of Te Matau, the youngest being 13 years of age. Also onboard was the President of the House of Ariki –Tou Ariki (Ariki of Mitiaro) and Vakatini Ariki (Ariki of Rarotonga). Vakatini Ariki celebrated his 72 birthday onboard Marumaru Atua. The visit to Mauke was special for everyone on board Te Matau. Not only is Mauke the birthplace of Paikea (Kapu i te Rangi) but also the naming place of Takitumu where Tangi’ia, Koroheke of Tamatea Arikinui, resided.