Tārai Waka - Learn to love every process

By Waimanea Nuri

By Waimanea Nuri, Te Rito journalism cadet.

The revival of traditional Māori navigation and canoe construction is emerging through rangatahi Māori.

Billy Harrison (Te Rarawa) is one of the up-and-coming waka carvers who was taught by Heemi Eruera, a renowned waka professor who learned from Tā Hekenukumai Busby.

Harrison says everything started from paddling waka taua, to carving waka with a traditional toki and, with his whānau constantly inspiring him to do his mahi, he joined a school for waka carvers.

Billy Harrison keeping tradition alive.

“I became involved in this mahi straight after school and volunteered in waka carving, got a job and then joined the kura waka, which then used to be called, Te Wānanga a Kupe Mai Tawhiti”.

He says that before he began carving waka, he was assigned simple jobs like mopping the floors, rolling electrical cords, and replenishing the generators.

Billy says that looking back on those entry-level positions taught him the value of hard work, as it takes a certain type of mind to stay focused and work in this field of mahi.

“You have to have passion for waka because some of the mahi is boring but you have to learn to love every process.

For anyone wanting to do this, you need dedication, passion and identity, to know who you truly are.”