So va'a so good

It may have taken almost 20 years, but a promise John Misky made to his late grandmother over a game of cards has finally been fulfilled.

Image Credit - Le Te Va'a Facebook

Back in 2003 John and his grandmother were playing one of their regular games of cards when she told him she wished she had some money to donate to the Tokelauan Bible translation campaign.

John immediately told her he would help by building a Samoan va’a and sailing it from Auckland to Wellington collecting money along the way.

Numerous attempts were made to get the building project off the ground over the years, and, on the first weekend of December the va’a was launched at the Porirua Rowing Club, north of Wellington.

Sadly, John’s grandmother passed away in 2005, so never got to see her grandson keep his promise to her, but she, and others who have passed on are remembered in the design through stars on the mast and a colourful turtle honouring them.

When we did our original story on his endeavour, John told Pasifika Proud that one of the reasons he wanted to do the project was that it brought back memories of sailing a wooden va’a with his father when he was a kid back in Tokelau.

“I treasured those special moments and dreamed of following in the footsteps of our voyaging ancestors,” he said.

That is something he has certainly done, notching up an estimated 250,000 nautical miles on the water over the years, mainly when in Samoa as part of the revival of the Samoan va’a tele activity, taking part in the Te Mana O Te Moana (The Spirit of the Ocean) journey in which seven canoes were built in Aotearoa and crewed by Pacific Islanders, travelling from New Zealand to Hawaii and then the west coast of the USA.

This journey came to an end in 2012 at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands.

And it reawakened John’s determination to complete the promise he had made to his grandmother.

After a couple of false starts, the project got moving properly in 2017, and despite the best efforts of Covid to scupper the construction, which was mainly happening at weekends in a shed at John’s Porirua home, the 400kg, 10m sailing canoe, which can carry up to eight adults was finally completed earlier this year.

And for John it is not just a case of keeping a promise to his beloved grandmother.

“It’s not just about building a canoe, it’s about building lives,” he said.

“It’s not just about the men. It’s the women who weave the sail which is about working in partnership. The sail itself represents the propulsion of the va'a going forward when it catches the wind. Safety remains paramount. This has been built for everyone. It’s a matter of how we move forward and continue to share the knowledge, which represents our cultures, languages, traditions, knowledge and family connections.”

These principles align and support Pasefika Proud strengths-based vision as anchors of identity to keep peace, harmony and wellbeing for our family connections where safety is paramount.

You may also be interested in:  A Va’a represents a purpose built for wellbeing

For more information: Le Ta Va'a (Our Canoe)

Pasefika Proud Principles

The following principles support and guide our work:

Community-led – supporting communities to identify their own needs, and design and lead their own solutions. Community leadership happens at all levels – including in homes, churches and sport and cultural settings. Pasefika Proud taps into and nurtures those community leaders, influencers and role models who are able to inspire and support positive change.

Strengths based – drawing on Pacific cultural values to strengthen communities, build resilience and keep Pacific peoples safe. Focusing on assets and dispelling the myth that family violence is part of our various Pacific cultures. This helps to open doors that would otherwise be closed to conversations about family violence.

‘Ethnic-specific for Pacific’ – working intentionally in an ethnic-specific way to support the development of community-owned, culturally appropriate solutions. Experience and evidence to date suggest that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not as effective as one that derives from unique cultural frameworks and strengths.

Diversity / Inclusion – recognising that Pacific peoples in New Zealand are incredibly diverse in terms of culture, ethnicity, migration experience, age, gender, location and many other factors. Acknowledging and understanding our diversity helps us to be more inclusive.

Evidence based – building expertise and an evidence base on what supports positive change / transformation that prevents violence within Pacific families and communities.

Education / Skills focused – supporting knowledge and skills acquisition that builds confidence and capability within Pacific families, communities and services.

Sustainability – acknowledging the complexities and intergenerational impacts of family violence, and focusing on realistic solutions that help to embed and sustain social change at the community level.