Thursday, 16 June 2016

A ride in the Dutch waka

I had an awesome evening with the Waka Gezelschap (waka group), a bunch of students in the Dutch city of Leiden who are dedicated to looking after the city's waka taua (carved Maori war canoe) as well as upholding Maori traditions in Holland. I was amazed by how seriously they take their role and how good their grasp is of the Maori language and kaupapa waka (canoe traditions). 
Their weekly club night on Wednesday started with a prayer followed by land-based paddle drills, a circuit of the city's canals in the training waka Taahimana, a performance of their own specially-composed haka plus the famous ka mate haka, and a closing prayer. The waka group is part of the Njord Royal Student Rowing Club - see my previous post for more details about their waka exchange programme... 

My first lot of photos weren't great, so I realised I was going to have to get on the waka to have a chance of getting a decent image. That involved perching on the prow of the waka so I could shoot back along the length of the waka. However, that also made the waka unsteady, so I had a anxious trip around Leiden hoping I wasn't going to end up in the water. That would've been the end of my brand new, and rather expensive, camera. However, the crew, led by kaihautu (captain) Alex Miesen, an English literature student, got me safely back to the waka jetty outside the city's ethnology musuem. Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou!

Afterwards I was invited to join the crew in a nearby bar for a post-training pilsje (beer). Thanks guys for a fun, and fascinating, evening. 
See the group's website for more information (in Dutch). 

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