Education

Waka Hourua – Sailing into the Future

Polynesian Māori expertly traversed vast tracts of ocean to settle remote islands in the paradise of the Pacific centuries before Galileo and the rest of the world’s great astronomers, philosophers, geographers and explorers stopped believing the world was flat. How did they do this?

Waka hourua (double hull sailing canoes) are still being sailed today, using ancient knowledge passed down through the generations, and have been adapted over the years to what you now see in the prestigious America’s Cup Race. For your introduction to this most fascinating topic, lifestyle and sport watch Te Tēpu on Sunday 19th October 2014 at 9.30 pm on the Te Reo Channel, or you can also catch it on this link: http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/te-tepu.

You may recognise our own Whanganui Regional Museum staff member Āwhina Twomey as one of the panel members being interviewed. Having only started traditional sailing in 2010, Āwhina iterates she is the voice of a novice and also provides a female perspective to this panel. She is privileged to be seated beside tohunga (experts) of the waka hourua society, Hekenukumai Puhipi (Busby), Hoturoa Kerr and Turanga Kerr.

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You can book your class in now with Kaiwhakaako Āwhina Twomey (Māori Educator) to learn about waka hourua arrival in Aotearoa, return journeys and trading. Hear of her trials and tribulations whilst sailing aboard waka hourua from Hawai’i to San Francisco, and also from Rarotonga to Aotearoa.

Supported by stunning snapshots and snippets of a soon-to-be released documentary, you will see how the past fuses with the present, to take us into the future. Learn about and become part of the worldwide circumnavigation happening now!

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Pressing Business

Proofing press

Some of the items we feature in From the Vaults are stored somewhere in the giant labyrinth beneath the museum, catalogued and carefully kept in temperature-controlled conditions until needed for display or research. Others are presented proudly behind glass, under lights or on models as part of a current or ongoing museum exhibition. Seldom do we find something that is in use, still doing the same job it was designed to do more than a century ago.
The museum is in possession of an ancient proofing press, once part of the Wanganui Chronicle plant and equipment, and now a working exhibit in the Whanganui Regional Museum tactile collection. When it was in daily use as a newspaper tool, printing staff would use it to print each page for proofing purposes, enabling a practised eye to be cast over the newsprint before going to press.
Museum educator, Margie Beautrais uses the machine as an educational tool at the museum. “We have the wooden poster type,” she says, “which is very old and very precious, and we feel really lucky to be allowed to use these with kids.”
The wooden type comes in many sizes and is stored in their original type drawers, also sourced from the Chronicle. Unfortunately, the museum does not possess a full complement of any particular font.
Included among the carved wooden letters is an array of logos and graphic art, once used in newspaper advertising. Margie has arranged all the letters in sizes so posters can be created with differing font styles of the same size. It works well and the posters look great.
“It’s all good learning for kids,” she says. “They find out that this stuff is called ‘furniture’ (wooden blocks used for line spacing) and these things are called ‘quoins’ (metal wedges) and they have to learn the writing goes backwards.”
Margie showed me some of the old Chronicle art she has used to create themed posters. There are ads and logos for long gone Wanganui companies, pictures of riverboats, Christmas art, the Wanganui District Council crest – all stamped in metal and glued to wooden blocks.
“Every child gets a tray, they get to choose a picture and they have to think of a word to go with it. It’s really good for supporting literacy,” she says. “I do a demo for them and they help me find the letters, working in pairs or by themselves.”
Margie holds up a mirror for the children to check their work before they move over to the press to ink it up and print a copy. The posters are then hung to dry and given to the school the following day.
When the proof press was given to the museum it went straight to the education programme, where it has been retained. “The value of it as an educational tool is high,” says Margie. “It’s not getting damaged. It’s fairly robust.”
To see it used as it was intended in a museum context is refreshing. “It’s old and it’s cool and it’s still being used,” she says. “I would love more schools to come and do this programme. It doesn’t get used as often as I would like. I’d like to run this programme every week.”
Teachers interested in any of the educational programmes on offer are urged to contact the Whanganui Regional Museum.

Original article appeared in the Wanganui Midweek on 2nd May 2 2012. Reproduced with permission from the publishers.