TE WAKA WAIRUA, TE AWATEA
THE SPIRIT CANOE, TE AWATEA
Te Awatea was the most famous waka taua or war canoe in the top of the South Island. It was said that it could give others a half way head start and still win a race. Some claimed it to be one of the hulls of the famed double hulled voyaging waka Kurahaupo which brought their ancestors to this country which would make it a very long lasting treasure. This beautifully carved waka was proudly owned by the Ngati Apa and Kati Kuia tribes who had hidden it when they were invaded by the Northern alliance in the late 1830’s. However its fame meant that it was soon sought out by the newcomers and claimed by Ngati Koata who later passed it to Te Hiko, chief of Ngati Toa. As it was taken a song of lament was sung and even though the physical waka went from sight, for many years after people would hear the song of its paddlers through the mist and even catch glimpses of it sliding through the waters of Raukawa Moana. It was said to be taking the ancient practices and beliefs of the people away for safe keeping.
In this illustration Te Awatea is depicted as a spirit canoe gliding through the mist to the sound of the paddlers song. The paddlers are represented as manaia or spirit forms who are its kaitiaki or guardians.
Artwork by Brian Flintoff and kindly gifted by him to the Kāhui Ako ki Whakatū