The Aiga Folau o Samoa (Samoa Voyaging Society) have taken Samoa’s traditional Va’atele (double-hulled voyaging canoe, or Waka) called the Gaualofa to New Zealand to strengthen ties with local Maori iwi ahead of the 2018 N.Z. Festival in Wellington.
The Gaualofa arrived in Auckland on January 4 to take part in A Waka Odyssey to celebrate a shared Pacific voyaging history during the New Zealand Festival next month.
“It has always been important that we get to this Festival,” says Aiga Folau President Schannel Fanene van Dijken.
“Not only does this allow us to honour and celebrate our shared ancestral bonds with our Maori aiga, but also highlight to our Samoan based aiga who we are and what we represent.
“It is also not lost on us the responsibility that we are the only Pacific Island Va’a that will be present, and we will be doing our best to represent and showcase our Pacific family well.
“The organisers of the New Zealand Festival have been very helpful in making this trip a reality.”
Vice President of Aiga Folau, and Tulafale for the Gaualofa, Lauaki Lavata’i Afifi Mailagi says it’s an honour and very humbling that they are there, but more importantly hopes to strengthen bonds with their Māori whanau.
“It’s very important that we connect to our Māori family and hapori (community) as the Gaualofa, which translates to do and act out of love, is a symbol of unity.”
The name of the va’a also comes from an old Samoan proverb “Ualeai se gaumata’uuana’o le gaualofa” meaning “what is done out of love rather than fear will last forever” a value taught aboard the Gaualofa.
“There is no fear because of the love we have for our future generations,” says Lauaki, who advises that although they sail forward for future generations, it’s important to pay respect and homage to the ancestors who first voyaged to and around the Pacific.
“We need to look back and honor the lessons of the past, and use this to help chart our way forward. The Gaualofa is a symbol of our connection to our past, and signifies a special way of using the power of nature (sun and wind) as we move forward,” agrees President van Dijken.
The theme of aiga is an important one to the crew and to the wider Aiga Folau because the not-for-profit organisation works not only to revive Samoa’s traditional sailing and navigation skills, but also our past stewardship responsibilities that promoted sustainable land and ocean resource use among communities.
“For us, it’s very important that we try and spread as much of what we do to as many people,” says President van Dijken.
And it starts with the crew who are all village-based and capable tama and tama’ita’i Samoa (young Samoan men and women).
“We teach traditional navigation; sailing and environmental knowledge and our crew learn to build confidence in themselves and their skills, they become better people physically, mentally and spiritually.”
As the Gaualofa crew prepare for their role in showcasing the navigation and voyaging traditions of the Pacific at the festival in February, they will visit various schools and also participate in other community engagement events such as the Auckland Anniversary and Waitangi celebrations.
Just before the opening of the New Zealand Festival, there will be a Pacific Climate Change Conference, at which the Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi will be giving the keynote speech at the conference opening.
Aiga Folau will have a session during the conference to talk about the Gaualofa being used as an effective symbol and tool for highlighting the importance of environmental and cultural stewardship.
They hope many more people will journey with them and become part of the wider Aiga Folau.
One way to support the Aigafalou and their journey is to head along to one of two upcoming fundraising events in January to raise funds for the general maintenance of the Gaualofa and provisioning of the crew.
WHERE: St Mary’s Papakura
WHEN: 20 January 2018
Central West Auckland
WHEN: 26 January 2018.