Reconnecting with their ancestral knowledge and voyaging culture is essential for the inhabitants of Taumako. On this isolated Polynesian island, directly impacted by climate change, the elders set up the Holau Vaka Taumako Project to share their know-how between generations and with other islands in the South Pacific and Hawaiian regions.
Having learnt traditional navigation techniques from his father, Aliki Koloso Kaveia, Paramount Chief of Taumako, wanted to share them with younger generations. Aliki, who died in 2009 aged 98, was one of the last navigators embodying the Taumako voyaging culture, which had been suppressed for 70 years under colonial policies.
To train young people in art of voyaging, navigation and boat building using traditional methods and materials, in 1996, he launched the Holau Vaka Taumako Project supported by the Pacific Traditions Society and, today, overseen by NGO Vaka Valo.
Building and learning together
This project brings together all of the island’s people and resources, as well as help from neighbouring islands, to build traditional voyaging vaka. The aim? Create sustainable transport vessels and revive ocean-going use of the ancient knowledge system of the Taumako voyaging culture. 14 inter-island voyages have already been made. The young learn from their elders and are encouraged to document and share their culture. This also inspires the entire South Pacific and Hawaiian regions to train a new generation in ancient designs, materials, methods and tools. As well as teaching inhabitants how to maintain local plants, animals, water supplies, resources and inter-island relationships – all of which are essential for a sustainable and resilient way of life on these remote islands.
Moving forwards, the project will continue to build voyaging vessels and make training voyages. The team also hopes to build a solar-powered canoe house / voyaging school and work with biodiversity and climate change scientists, as well as cultural experts and local, regional and international students.
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