The Samoa Voyaging Socety (SVS) works to promote positive Samoan cultural values, respect for the ocean and nature, individual and social responsibility, discipline and integrity.

The SVS considers that the reintroduction of traditional sailing in Samoa will provide opportunities for youth development (sports, leadership), environmental awareness, cultural development and, potentially, tourism opportunities such as whale watching and adventure tours.

SVS is developing hands-on educational and training programmes in traditional sailing and navigation. The programmes will target young Samoan youth including school children, school leavers and other interested groups. The task of learning traditional sailing and navigation skills also develops leadership and discipline among the youth, leading to well-rounded young people capable of contributing positively to the growth of this nation.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Zealand Farewell Ceremony - 13th April 2011

Market Place - Viaduct, Auckland

The sun beat down on us as we gathered at the Viaduct marina with the rest of the Pacific voyagers on Wednesday. As preparations for our farewell ceremony continued throughout the morning, I couldn’t help but notice the buzzing energy of each of the five va’a crews, dressed smartly in their formal island-style uniforms: Uto Ni Yalo showing the colour of the mid-day sky; Haunui in the vibrant hue of a setting sun; Te Matau a Maui stylishly portraying the dark of the night-time ocean; Hine Moana also dressed in black, but trimmed with the fiery red of anticipation that flows excitedly through the bodies of all of the voyagers gathered here. We, the Sāmoan crew of the Gaualofa, reflect the brilliant blue of the vast Pacific ocean; this giant expanse of life upon which we will live for the coming 4 months as we make our way towards Hawai’i, and then beyond. The Gaualofa raised her traditional (Marquesas) rig, revealing for the first time the new design upon which 6 of our crew had laboured over the past week, depicting the ocean, its life and frightening power.

Some of the crew make final adjustments to their uniforms, while others assist in setting up chairs and sitting mats for the Māori poroporoaki farewell ceremony and the Fijian Kava. Just a few remain aboard to manoeuvre the Gaualofa into position for the send-off; crew of the other va’a do the same, and before long the memorable sight of four of these hardy ocean-voyaging vessels moored next to each other is set.

The skippers gathered their crew and sat them in the rowed seats, with interested spectators sitting behind to observe the ceremonial happenings.

Hoturoa, a senior member of the Haunui crew, offers a brief introduction before handing on to the kaumatua who sits next to him, who offers a prayer in Māori to ask of our great voyaging ancestors a blessing for our ambitious voyage. The ceremony moves on to hear the empowering words of Matua Hector Busby, a preeminent figure within traditional ocean voyaging circles in the Pacific, and a tufuga fauva’a of great skill and experience. Hector is supported strongly by a group who stand with him to sing a song for the voyagers who are leaving. Meanwhile, a number of the boys from Fiji are standing aside, preparing to present an energetic performance for the spectators dressed in traditional war-dance garb. The song ends and the Fijians burst onto the centre mat amidst their own energetic cries and theatrical jeers. The level is raised as the rhythm picks up, until the short yet intense show explodes in a ball of frightening energy.

The ceremony goes on as Captain Frank of Te Matau a Maui offers a Māori greeting to all present; he greets the spiritual essence of the Sky and the Earth and the ancestors who watch from afar, and asks that they might help to guide our va’a safely on their journey. He acknowledges skippers Marc, Duncan, Jonathan and Magnus, of the four other va’a embarking from Aotearoa, and all of the collective crew.

Frank’s mihi is supported by his Ngati Kahungunu crew, who all stand in a great chorus of Māori voices, ringing out in harmonised melodies.

The ceremony continued on; the Fijian Uto Ni Yalo crew returned to perform the sacred Kava ceremony for the dignitaries present, including the skippers and other leaders. Jack Thatcher, the leading celestial navigator for Hine Moana and the entire fleet then led a special Māori haka, accompanied by crew members of Te Matau a Maui. This haka is said to have been developed from the powerful words of a Māori karakia many generations past, which had the power to quell the guardian spirits of the ocean when entering a protected harbour. Jack led the group with unrivaled vigour and power, displaying his quality as a leader of men and a cultural stalwart of the voyage, and the Māori contingent responded to his guiding calls with powerful energy and intense rhythmic action.

The ceremony was finally closed with a prayer and hymn, as all of the crew members and spectators joined hands in a giant ring of spiritual piety to the Almighty, to the natural spirits of the world, and to our great ancestors who spread our people across the seas through their great qualities of patience, diligence, wisdom and courage.

Finally the time had come for our departure into the harbour. Spectators were alerted to the dock by the distictive rhythmic calls of “Hine! Hine! Hine Moana!”, as Magnus and his crew of Tongan, Vanuatu, Tahitian, Fijian and Maori chanted and danced the haka of their va’a with beaming enthusiasm. Each va’a moved off to the chanting and stamping of their own rhythmic signature, and the Gaualofa followed suit with her own powerful burst of Sāmoan pride: “‘O ai le toa?...Sāmoa!!”

After a short cruise of but a few hours in the Auckland harbour, manoeuvring the va’a and capturing footage of the different sailing crews from cameras aboard Te Matau a Maui, Gaualofa and the fleet of Pacific va’a returned to dock at the Viaduct, to complete their last few preparations before departure into the vast deep blue.

Although due to leave on Friday, a large storm at sea has delayed our departure, and for the past few days the crew of the Gaualofa and most of the other va’a have been living on board on standby, eager and ready to venture beyond the horizon as soon as the weather allows an opening.

Nonetheless, in but one day or two we will embark on our long journey of re-discovery, as we strive to learn the ways of our ancestors who once sailed the vast oceanic currents with naught but the sun, moon and stars, and guided only by their respect for, and spiritual connection with the ocean that is our past, our present, and our future home.

Bruce Maauga

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