James Eruera has been crafting traditional Māori waka for more than two decades.

"It's just my zone. I have had some of my bosses come to me and say I am overworking. But actually, when I am building waka, I am in my space.

"I am right where I want to be. In reality, if there is anything that de-stresses me, it's building a waka."

Eruera has been working as a tutor for the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.


He was passionate about passing on his knowledge to those following in his footsteps.

"My focus, really, is to give them the basic set of skills and then create future pathways that will lead them to gaining more experience."

For two of his students, learning the skills of canoe building has been life changing.

"It's for anyone to learn, but to me, it helps me know who I am," Leslie Matiu said.

Bryce Motu agreed.

"It's really the main reason why I kept going - you can feel the mana when you are working with the rākau," he said.

James, Bryce and Leslie travelled to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC to view an ancient Hawaiian waka and help revitalise the craft.

"The biggest similarities with, not just Hawaiian waka, but with all waka across the world, is the natural form they take because of the nature of trees, the shape of trees," Eruera said.


"The natural form of the rākau. It actually dictates how the canoe is shaped."

With his help, a digital copy of the waka has been made, so that people from all corners of the globe could have a better understanding of these ancient canoes and how they were constructed.

"The 3D printing and the digitisation allows us to put knowledge into a virtual environment.

"One of the biggest things for the Smithsonian is to get that digital format out there and then recreate conversations around what we saw in the canoe - the building, the lashing, patchwork, repairs."

Ereuera believes connecting Māori history to the rest of the world will allow New Zealanders to further understand the beauty of our indigenous culture.

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