Connect the dots / 04 June 2011
Departure ceremony in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva
It seems just like yesterday, our fleet of va'a arrived on the shores of Taipivai, a beautiful valley on the south east end of the island of Nuku Hiva. Herman Mellville did the same 160 years ago and wrote about his stay on the biggest island of the Marquesas archipelago. His novel "Typee" (named after the valley) became a best seller, the first before his most important work "Moby Dick," considered as one of the greatest literary works of all time. But of what importance does the description of a foreigner's visit to a pacific island, and especially a white sperm whale, have to do with this blog?
Dieter Paulmann - the funder and visionary of this voyage, is undoubtedly a white man discovering the unscathed beauty of the Pacific Islands. But first of all he is also one of a few that has been in direct contact with a white sperm whale. Unlike the story "Moby Dick" his encounter with one of the ocean's grandest and mysterious creatures was a positive one that changed his life. One could say that the encounter was a spiritual one which inspired him to take action and finally to establish Okeanos – Foundation for the Sea.
For a very long time he was to many of us crew members of the Pacific Voyagers fleet somewhat of a mystery just like the white whale in Moby Dick. We were at times intimidated by Dieter's generosity and sometimes insecure about his intentions.
But since the beginning of the voyage, which started early April, we were finally treated to Dieter Paulmann. He has shared a little about himself and especially his experience with the sea and a white sperm whale that changed his life. We can say that he has shared his passion and his concerns with us, like a father does with his children, but what separates him from other benefactors is that he listens. He listened to the stories of our ancestors told by archeologists and ethnologist, he listened to community leaders, cultural practitioners and crew members. He listens and does something about it.
The heart and soul of the va'a is its crew members. And like many crew members we are seeking knowledge from our ancestors who have sailed to settle the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Te Mana O Te Moana, the spirit of the sea, this is the title given to this voyage of Va'a across the vast Pacific Ocean - Moana a Hiva. And with the seven va'a several messages are carried: that of the protection of marine wildlife, awareness of ocean acidification, climate change, ocean noise and promotion of pacific island customs and traditions. But there lies an even deeper message that goes hand in hand with the title. A spiritual message that ultimately brings every one together.
Today at our departure ceremony, the whole village of Taiohae came out to say goodbye to us, the fleet of seven va'a. It was the first time that we felt so united, as we all wore the red t-shirts the township had given us. It was the first time it felt that we were becoming one, despite all our differences. It was the first time it felt like we could understand each other. That was the feeling that was the spirit of today's ceremony.
The gathering of pacific island people has been established through politics, sports and arts for many years. But Te Mana O Te Moana is the voyage of Pacific island people on the va'a, a communication tool which has established links in the past and today has inspired us, people of all ages, from different walks of life to make a difference in our lives. Isn't that the spirit? A spiritual encounter which leads to life changing actions. Dieter Paulmann has led the way and has given our people of the Moana A Hiva a va'a, a chance to learn about ourselves and each other, to learn about the environment that surrounds us, to learn about our ancestral values, to learn that our actions affect future generations.
The spirituality of this voyage will be a topic of much discussion. For Faafaite, this voyage between Tahiti and Hawaii is of utmost significance as it will be the first time in a very long time that a voyaging va'a from Tahiti has set sail for Hawaii, Fenua Vaihi. As all of our va'a will be soon sailing for the unknown just like our ancestors did, we hope to arrive safely and in turn... connect the dots.
Johann Hironui Bouit