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Bicentennial waka marks golden jubilee


File image of Te Winika (Image Credit-Te Ara, Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, July 7, 2023

A karakia (blessing) on all who travel that have lived on through the passage of time, translates as “May peace be widespread, may the sea glisten like greenstone, and may the shimmer of light guide you on your way.”

The prayer comes to mind, reminiscing the great journeys made by many brave voyagers, as Hamilton’s very own treasure, the majestic 200 year old waka, Te Winika, celebrates 50 years of residence at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato this weekend on July 8, 2023.

A remarkable chapter of history

It was on 8 July 8 1973, that the ‘Te Winika’ embarked on her final voyage up the Waikato River, escorted by other waka taua from the Kiingitanga: Tuumanako, Te Rangatahi, and Taaheretikitiki II.

Te Winika was then gifted to the city of Hamilton on the same day,  by Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, monarch of the Kiingitanga. It is estimated that millions of visitors have seen the intricately carved waka taua (Maaori war canoe) since Waikato Museum became the kaitiaki of Te Winika.

Hamilton City Council’s kaumatua, Tame Pokaia celebrates this milestone and recalls the coming together of expert carvers to restore Te Winika for her final journey.

Mr Pokaia said “Te Winika is a powerful symbol of our connection to each other and Hamilton (Kirikiriroa). Kotahi te koowhao o te ngira e kuhuna ai te miro maa, te miro pango, te miro whero there is but one eye of the needle, through which the white, the black and the red threads must pass. I remember the words of Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, that we must look after the needle that binds us together, so it does not get rusty.”

The historic event of the waka’s final voyage was recorded with film slides which will be on display this weekend and was revisited in 2009 for the creation of Te Winika Memories, a 10 minute video of interviews with Tikitiki Green, Hikairo Herangi, Rawerawe Herangi, and Leo Muru.

The majestic Te Winika celebrates 50 years of residence (Image supplied)

Heart of Waikato Museum

Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts said Te Winika is the heart of the Waikato Museum. “She is prominently positioned with a view over the Waikato River, to keep alive her connection to te awa tuupuna (the river) and iwi (the people). Te Winika is admired by every visitor who comes here, whether they are tangata whenua with whaanau connections to Te Winika, or an overseas traveller eager to learn about our unique heritage.”

“Te Winika was gifted to Hamilton city as a gesture of harmony and goodwill by the Kiingatanga’s longest-serving monarch, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. The mayor at the time, Mike Minogue, stated that ‘Te Winika is a reminder of how we should live our lives. She will live forever in a proud and central place in the city of Hamilton’. For the last fifty years, Waikato Museum has proudly served as the kaitiaki (guardian) of this precious gift, and we look forward to sharing her story, including her wonderful years with us, with future generations too.”

On Saturday, July 8, 2023, the short film Te Winika Memories along with rarely seen images from Te Winika’s final journey on the awa, will be screened next to Te Winika. Ms Cotton shared that more celebrations of the anniversary are to come.

“We are looking forward to continuing to honour Te Winika as we celebrate her 50th year residing here at Te Whare Taonga. She is a significant part of our Museum whaanau and an ongoing source of inspiration and wonder for all our visitors.”

The history of Te Winika is encapsulated in the experiences of the Tainui people. In 1836 a massive tootara tree that stood near Port Waikato was felled to create the kaunaroa (central hull) for the waka taua, which was collectively built by craftspeople from Ngaati Tipa of Tuakau, Ngaati Maru of Hauraki, and Ngaati Maahanga of the western coastline of the Waikato.

In the fork of the tree grew a type of orchid known as ‘te winika’ which blooms with masses of white and green star-shaped flowers, evoking the huia feathers worn by high-ranking rangatira (chiefs). This led to the auspicious name being given to the waka taua, which served Maaori royalty for many purposes, from transport to ceremonial duties.

Following the 1863 invasion of the Waikato and the tumultuous era of the New Zealand Land Wars, Te Winika was dismantled and hidden to avoid destruction by Imperial and colonial troops. In the following century, she was restored and became a symbol of the Kiingatanga, thanks to the Waikato waka renaissance led by Te Puea Herangi during the 1930s.

Waikato Museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm and entry is free.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink correspondent based in Hamilton.

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