Mystery of lost waka (canoe) featured in documentary

17 10 2007

The mysterious connection between Maori and the inhabitants of remote Polynesian islands thousands of kilometres west of Aoteaora is explored in THE LOST WAKA screening for the first time in Maori Television’s New Zealand Documentary slot, Pakipumeka Aotearoa, on Wednesday October 31 at 8.30 PM.

The hour-long film follows former Maori Language Commissioner, Professor Patu Hohepa, and wife Erena as they travel to Rennell (Mu Ngiki) and Bellona (Mu Nggava) in search of the ‘lost waka’ – the link in the geneology, mythology and lapita design between Maori and the people of these islands.

According to producer Ingrid Leary from Pasifika Pictures, the islanders greet others with hongi, practice noa and tapu, and speak a language so similar to Maori that they can comfortably converse with the indigenous people of New Zealand.

Decades ago, a Danish researcher was the only outsider to study the language and culture and he found that the languages of Rennell and Bellona – although distinct – were both ethnographically just one degree different from Maori.

So exactly what is the relationship of the people of these two islands to the indigenous people of Aotearoa? Do they share a common ancestor? What is their whakapapa and where is the link to New Zealand Maori?

Professor Hohepa first came into contact with the languages of Rennell and Bellona through Samuel Elbert some 40 years ago while teaching in Hawaii and researching the 37 Polynesian languages.

THE LOST WAKA is his search for the link between New Zealand Maori and the two iwi which live in the remote islands off the Solomon Islands. Leary says no-one had made this particular journey before which was a “pioneering experience, academically but also spiritually”.

“The tipuna (ancestors) guide him and the crew throughout the journey to discover significant common ancestors, and to document whakapapa, common history and mythology from the days of the great Pacific migrations.

“For the first time ever, the blood connection is traced. But more significant is the instant, immediate and undisputable aroha (love) and spiritual connection between the Maori crew and the people of these two remote islands.

“This important documentary is a historical landmark. It is a beginning, not an end, and the journey forward for all concerned will mean going back even further to another lost waka from the very distant past.”

THE LOST WAKA screens in Maori Television’s New Zealand Documentary slot, Pakipumeka Aotearoa, on Wednesday October 31 at 8.30 PM.




5 responses

14 12 2007
Steven Abia

Interesting is it possible to buy a copy of this documentary? i would like buy a copy.

Steven Abia

17 12 2007
Steven Abia

It is interesting to see the work of Patu in trying to trace and find links between our people of Mungiki and Mugava and the Maori people. While we have a lot in common it is also important to respect each others oral and now written history. The title ‘the lost waka’ or baka is in a way insulting to our people’s history.

Our history is very clear, we where never ‘lost’. Actually that title discredits navigational skills and knowledge of our ancestors plus the divine guidance by our ancestors’ gods. The fact that they arrived safely to the shore of the dream land of Mungiki and Mugava speaks volume of the unique skills we as a people possesses, in fact the last voyages our people involved in with out aid of modern technology was way back in the 1950’s. They read the stars and wave patterns and safely navigate their way from Mungiki to Guadalcanal. It was the colonial government at that time that discourages and band any further voyage, considering the great risk our people face in such voyages. They took five voyages with not even one fail. For your information we know of every voyages that launches out from our shores, few didn’t return, later when wider contact with our Melanesian neighbors in the present we learn of the fate they met, they were outnumbered and killed when they landed on unfriendly islands. We also know of every single people that turn up on our shores the most recent were of two sailing boats on two separate times that were washed ashore on our island by high seas.

Our ancestors might have traveled though from New Zealand who knows. Our culture has a lot of similarity with the Maori people of New Zealand. Few points that I believe might substantiate such ideas, one is we practice Hesongi, Hongi in Maori. That’s greetings with rubbing of ones nose. We have a shoulder tattoo which is called hungumoa, or moa feather. Our ancestors might have contributed to the extinction of the moa bird and many more. May I conclude here by saying that I don’t buy the lost theory for we where never lost and our culture is pure still, we don’t go to class rooms to study our culture, unlike other cultures who have surrendered to outside influence.

20 03 2008
Johnny Sa'omoana

I’ve heard about this documentary but never got the chance to view it. But I just want to add a few comments to what Steve Abia noted in his above posting. It is important to note that “all” Polynesians hold very similar histories, customs, and social practices. Even the Islands of Hawaii, far up in the Northern Polynesia, traditions aren’t so far from that of the Maori and the Rennell Bellonese cultures. Yet, they have no direct ties to our people.
Those who are looking for answers to some of the darkest historical questions, should look at the connection between Polynesian islands with certain degrees of objectivity.
We all know Polynesians, before boundaries were drawn by colonial powers, were seafarers who migrated up North and later on, migrated South. Using this fact, it is somewhat ironic to view other Polynesians who settled in their own islands for centuries, as descendants of wakas who strayed from their intended course. This very notion may undermine the very history that we’ve passed down from generation to generation for about 700 years; that is, our ancestors came from Wallis and Futuna in search of Bellona Island and arrived through careful navigation and faith in their own deities.
I am not saying that such research or undertaking ought to be ignored. I am only stressing the fact that if our anccestors were believed to have possessed extraordinary marine navigational skills, it is highly unlikely that they were straying from their original target.
The word “lost” casts a shadow of doubt on the validity or reliability of our own history, even if we know that our ancestors traveled back and forth from the Polynesian islands to our islands. If the title of this documentary implies that the intended target was “Aotearoa,” then one should read the history of the discovery of our islands by our ancestors in contrast to that of Aotearoa. The name Aotearoa has a lot to do with where these Polynesians were heading; the islands were named Aotearoa or the “Land of the Long White cloud” as they thought they saw a long white cloud on the horizon only to see islands. Whether they were certain about their destination or not, its relevant to my next point; the founder of our islands, Kaitu’u and his clansmen, navigated through many islands in Fiji and Vanuatu chains to settle in Bellona: In fact, when they consulted their gods whenever they came across a beautiful island, the answer Medium’s answer was “keeping going”. That is an indication that they knew exactly where they going; and when they discovered the island of Mungiki, without a second thought, the Medium stood up and called out “Oooo ho tu’u a Mungiki! (Oo ho, there appears Bellona). These two examples should give us some objectivities into the similarities and variations between the Maori and Rennell Bellona history.

I am looking forward to see this documentary!

14 04 2008
bobby loenard

yo dog

5 03 2009
James S.

I’m from Rennell island, and this finding is interesting. Maybe the term lost is sound humilating. However, our history never say we are lost. But to Maori’s, we are lost. This could be because we have depart Maori’s uninform, and go afar to the islands of Mugava ma Mugiki, that the Maori’s will hadly find for centuries. And through their history, their was a lost waka, baka, or any name. But when we depart the Maori’s, its on purpose, which resulted in our different intepretation. So this needs a clear finding, because we share many common things. One indication is the name Moa Rennell and Bellona uses, without seeing any such bird on the islands, except in N.Z. Their is also a tottoe by the name “Hugu Moa” means a feather of a Moa. Another thing is the stone Kaitu’u brought. We called it “hatu ungi”, similar to the green stones in N.Z. Uvea, where we say we came from was just an assume to be Wallis and Futuna, because the traditional name of Wallis is Uvea, and thats all. A research needs to look at all aspect of culture to assume where we came from. Thanks.

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