born from our respected totara
Te Winika, the great waka of immense strength, was born from our respected Tōtara. For centuries, even to this day, she would live to tell many stories.
Our people have great respect for the forests that give them the materials to craft their waka. Karakia are said for the trees before they are felled and for each tree taken, 5 more are planted.
Te Winika's birth still echoes through the forests, embodied by the trees that came after her... but she would see her share of tragedy before she became a legend whispered throughout the land.
showing respect to the forest
Tāne, Atua of the forest, watches over his trees. As the story of Rātā teaches, we must be mindful of Tāne and those in his domain before we fell a tree to create our waka.
In the story, Rātā fails to show due respect to the forest and cuts down a tōtara to carve a mighty waka. The children of Tāne - including birds and insects – are upset by Rātā's oversight, and respond by restoring the tree to its upright position whilst Rātā is sleeping. This happens a number of times until finally Rātā acknowledges the tree was not his to take – then the children of Tāne forgive the initial disrespect, and create a waka for him.
It is customary for tohunga to offer karakia to prepare the way before a waka tree is felled. And, for each tree felled, another five are planted, as a way to give back to the forest.
Many karakia - including those offered as the tree was felled for Te Winika – are sacred knowledge, that is revered, protected, and passed down through generations. The below example is a common karakia used to this day that acknowledges the separation of our parents, Rangi and Papa, and the creation of the world – the moana, maunga, and ngahere – that resulted.
the birth of te winika
Te Winika, the magnificent Ngāti Tipa waka taua, was collectively built in 1845 by carvers from Ngāti Tipa of Tuakau, Ngāti Maru of Hauraki, and Ngāti Mahanga of the western coastline of the Waikato.
Large waka taua like Te Winika are often constructed in three sections, held together by a haumi joint, and lashed in place for strength. Te Winika's builders were clever, and made her design even stronger by adding a batten lengthwise down both the interior and exterior of each side of the hull.
It would have taken many months to build Te Winika. Waka taua often take around a year to construct, though depending on size, complexity, and manpower it can take longer. Taahere Tikitiki, a similarly sized waka taua built in 1971, took 18 months to complete.
Like many waka, Te Winika was built from the mighty tōtara tree.
Tōtara are favoured for waka building because they are tall and straight, with hard, comparatively light-weight wood that contains natural oils that prevent rotting.
Te Winika was named for the flowers found at the top of the tree her hull was carved from.
Winika is a species of epiphytic (non-parasitic 'air plant') orchid that commonly grow in Tōtara trees. They flower from December through to January - though the blooms may be hard to spot high up in trees, given their tiny 2.5cm size.
A 1974 documentary that follows the process of building a new waka taua - Tahere Tikitiki. This build was lead by Piri Poutapu, who lead two restorations of Te Winika. Te Winika herself features at 9:38.
Video courtesy of Archives New Zealand.