Maori Weekend

The wakas of Museum of Ethnology

Row with us! 

The waka is the pre-eminent symbol of Maori identity. In 2010, Museum Ethnology was presented with a ceremonial boat (waka taua) and a boat for daily use (waka tete kura) by New Zealand Maori. The first is made of a rare Kauri Tree, the other is made of fiberglass. The distinctive boat house in the museum garden is home to these two special wakas. 

The sea, almost never very far away in New Zealand, gave the inhabitants reason to develop very ingenious navigation techniques and efficient canoes. The waka therefore plays an important role in the lives of many Māoris. According to tradition, their ancestors traveled to New Zealand in seven wakas for the first time. Each group knows exactly which waka their ancestors came ashore with. When Maori introduce themselves, they tell which waka they belong to and which mythical waka their own group arrived in New Zealand with. Today, many family groups still have their own waka that they sail on during special occasions.  

Wakas in Ethnology

Exhibition Te Mana Māori in 2010 prompted former director Steven Engelsman to acquire a permanent item for the collection of Museum Volkenkunde. He initiated talks with Maori in New Zealand to get a waka to Leiden. To be allowed to have the waka in Leiden, proper agreements were made to protect the cultural integrity of the waka: there had to be a permanent crew for the waka and they had to be aware of the traditions and different cultural elements. Royal Student Rowing Association Njord was approached to provide this crew. A group of Maori traveled specially to Leiden to teach the members about all aspects of Māori culture. The crew is still in close contact with the Maori and every year new members are trained to row the waka.

Here you can see in the interesting report 'Te Hono ki Aotearoa' how the cooperation with the Maori carvers and their craft went: 

Row with us!

Māori Weekend is a unique opportunity for everyone to row along in a waka.