We're Teaching a New Generation of Polynesian Voyagers
We're the Vaka Taumako Project, a team of sailors, anthropologists, filmmakers, and hardworking local volunteers working since 1993 to perpetuate the unique and endangered ancient arts of Polynesian canoe-building, voyaging, and navigation. Today, we invite you to join us in helping to keep this knowledge alive.
The striking vessel you see here is a traditional vaka, a voyaging canoe from the island of Taumako, in the eastern Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. These magnificent craft are built by hand using only sustainable local natural materials. Using precise navigational skills based on a comprehensive system of wind, waves, and stars, these vaka are sailed for great distances without the use of any modern technology. The maritime knowledge of Taumako Polynesians is quite possibly the only fully authentic Polynesian voyaging tradition still alive in the entire Pacific Island community.
Sadly, as often happens to ancient traditions in our rapidly modernizing world, this wealth of knowledge is at risk of extinction. As petroleum-based shipping and western-style economic development reach Taumako, many locals are worried that this amazing cultural heritage will soon be lost.
As they say on Taumako, if you want to build a voyaging canoe, the first thing you must do is plant a garden, to feed the workers who will help you.
Today we're planting the seeds to feed the next generation of Polynesian canoe-builders and navigators, who will be the students and teachers of the Lata School of Navigation on Taumako Island.
In this campaign, we're raising funds to realize the following goals:
- To build a full size Te Puke voyaging canoe for the Lata Navigation School.
- To complete an educational video that both documents and explains how to build and navigate these superb vessels.
Perpetuating Polynesian Heritage
If you can imagine distant islands connected by sea roads, just as our own cities are linked by highways, you have an idea of how these islanders see their oceanic world. But throughout the Pacific, Polynesians were forced to stop using their own vessels for several decades of colonial rule. In 1993, when we first met master navigator Kruso Kaveia on Taumako, there were only a few living sailors who could still build and sail a voyaging canoe.
Since then, through the efforts of the Vaka Taumako Project, many Taumakan youth have mastered building the smaller types of traditional vaka. Some have sailed them to nearby islands where they found marriage partners and reunited with families and communities. Now voyaging students need complete their education by building a larger type of vaka, the Te Puke, so that they can navigate to more distant islands.
The Vaka Taumako Project is also dedicated to sharing knowledge of the ancient arts with anyone who is interested. For 17 years the building and sailing have been recorded on video, and the goal is to complete production of an educational video program to share with the world.
Where the Money Goes
We are looking to raise $50,000 to cover the costs of building a new full size Te Puke voyaging canoe and documenting the process so that future generations can access this knowledge. Funding goes directly to pay for rations for workers over the next 1.5 years of construction, and to pay for school fees for the children of workers, who must give up their regular wages in order to volunteer for construction during that time. Funding also goes toward the translation and editing of the archive of interviews and step-by-step video documentation of the building and navigation, which will be made available in English and local Polynesian languages.
The Vaka Taumako Project operates under the wing of the Pacific Traditions Society, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, based in Kapa'au, Hawaii.
We have amazing incentive gifts for our donors, including unique works of art, stunning images of the vaka at sea, intricate models of the vaka, handmade local jewelry and crafts, and the chance to meet Taumako artisans and participate directly in voyaging. That's right, there are a few spots available to actually sail on these canoes. For details and pics of our perks, please click here.
Every day we hear how climate change, fossil fuel dependence, and loss of old ways are impacting us. This sustainable ancient knowledge has answers we are looking for today. This is a real world opportunity to help keep an irreplaceable tradition alive for generations to come.
We've been working with the Taumako community since we were first invited there by their chief, Kruso Kaveia, in 1993. Since that time, we've published academic research, produced documentary films and organized several successful voyages, which you can check out on our website.
Other Ways You Can Help
We know not everybody can contribute financially. But you can still help by telling your friends and family about our project and this fundraising campaign. Please join us on facebook and twitter and spread the word!
From all of us at the Vaka Taumako Project,
Mahalo! Tenk Yu Tumas! Oli Efa! Thank You!
Marianne "Mimi" George