A dream come to life
A dream of my grandparents and their generation
A dream of my parents and their generation
A dream that has become mine, and of my generation
Can it be?...
A vaka rises out of the malamala
An almost lost priceless aspect of a culture that is striving to survive after decades of living in a diaspora community, in a distant land, far from our ancestral homeland of Tokelau.
The hand of the TaVaka Vasefenua Reupena, a Master Carver, rises and falls, effortlessly and smoothly chiseling away a layer of wood at each swing. The echo of tokis chipping away is mixed with the sound of laughter and singing of those gathered to fellowship. It is the descendants of those that came to this place many years ago that are gathered here in Poamoho, Wahiawa, Hawai’i to build the vaka, under the watchful eye of the TaVaka.
Everyone understands the gravity and responsibility of the task set before them. To build a vaka is not trivial by any means. By the grace of God, a TaVaka from Tokelau, a rare find, commissioned by the toeaina in a community group in Porirua, NZ, is here in Hawai’i to pass on the art of building a Tokelau vaka. Using tokis brought by the TaVaka, wielded in ages past by TaVakas of old, the traditional wisdom of carving is passed on to mine and to the next generation. The aid of modern technology sped up the process immensely, perhaps that is our generation’s contribution to this ancient art? Never to replace, just enhance.
What is the cultural importance of the vaka anyways? Well… surrounded by the Pacific Ocean as coral atolls just a few meters above sea-level, the vaka is essentially the life-line of a kaiga family in the islands. To provide for your family, you must have a vaka to fish the surrounding moana.
It may be that this significance is not lost on my generations minds and hearts of Tokelauans in Hawai’i. Surveys shows that we are losing our Tokelau language and culture slowly, but surely, in the U.S.
We see the building of this vaka, as a life-line in keeping our Tokelau language and culture alive. It keeps us connected to this God-given beautiful culture inherited from our tupuna.
Our grandparents and parents sacrificed greatly to provide a future for us in a place far away from Tokelau. They integrated and survived in this new land, yet their identity was firmly rooted in being a Tokelauan. That identity is mine now, it is the identity of many Tokelauans alive in Hawai’i. I owe it, We owe it to them, and to ourselves, and those coming after us, to keep this precious and unique aganuku culture and gagana language alive.
So that this same dream will become that of the next generation
A vaka is rising out of the malamala
In a few weeks, it will be ready for moana.
Hau, come, let us alo our vaka together.
E o te Aliki te vikiga i na mea uma
Ki mua Tokelau