Sarah Ell reviews Reawakened


Sarah Ell reviews Reawakened: Traditional navigators of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa by Jeff Evans for Kete: 

‘Making a significant contribution to celebrating the revival of that knowledge, highlighting its most experienced practitioners and looking forward to the future, is the appropriately named Reawakened subtitled Traditional Navigators of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Jeff Evans, an Auckland-based writer and photographer, who in 2015 published a biography of one of our greatest waka experts, Hec Busby, brings together here the stories of an elite group initiated as “Pwo” (or master navigators) from across the Pacific. He examines the legacy of the late Mau Piailug, from the tiny atoll of Satawal in the Caroline Islands, north of New Guinea, credited with initiating the waka voyaging revival when he led a crew aboard the Hōkūle‘a from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976.

The book tells the stories of ten navigators, from Hawai‘i, the Cook Islands and Aotearoa, based on Evans’ research and interviews with each one. Of particular interest to Kiwis will be the chapters on the late Sir Heke-nuku-mai-ngā-iwi Busby, John (Jacko) Webster Te Kapene Thatcher and Philip (Piripi) Leslie Evans, who have each made a significant contribution to the reawakening.

Each chapter reveals the physical and spiritual journeys these men have taken to acquire and express traditional knowledge, and how they are passing this on to new generations. It takes some hard mahi to recover what must once have been an almost innate skill, to learn to find your way based on the movement of the stars, the observation of waves and currents and the behaviour of sea birds and animals. Thatcher talks of the extreme sleep deprivation he experienced on early voyages, as he tried to remain constantly connected to the natural environment and carry the journey in his head, rather than a paper chart of computer screen.’

Read the full review here