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George and Wyeth to give talk, ‘Image and Reality in Polynesian Voyaging’

Taumako Polynesians sail at sunset in an undated photo. (COURTESY)
Taumako Polynesians sail at sunset in an undated photo. (COURTESY)

Ever wondered how the ancients could weave and sew lauhala into a blue-water sail for a voyaging canoe? Or what was the point of having two hulls instead of a heavy outrigger at sea? Or what more there was to Polynesian wayfinding than stars, swells, and birds?

Mimi George and Heu’ionalani Wyeth, members of the Vaka Taumako Project, will give three presentations of their talk entitled “Image and Reality in Polynesian Voyaging” at 1 p.m. on Aug. 12 at Kapaau Library, at Tutu’s Place at 5:30 p.m., and at Pu’uHonua o Honaunau at 5 p.m. on Aug. 13.

“Image and Reality in Polynesian Voyaging” is a slide show and talk about some of the most popular images about Polynesian voyaging, and the living reality as shown by Taumako islanders of the western Pacific. Nga Taumako are the only Polynesians who still make their own voyaging canoes using only ancient designs, tools, materials, and protocols, and who still use a fully traditional navigation/wayfinding system.

Their system, named Te Nohoanga Te Matangi, involves working with the wind. They use a mental calculator that specifies the relationships between weather, stars, swells, the routes you choose to take, and a mysterious light (te Lapa) that flashes from islands hundreds of miles into the deep sea. This is about a lot of ancient arts that most folks in Hawaii thought were long gone.

Heu’ionalani Meph Wyeth is classics scholar, kumu and president of the Ka’imi Na’auao o Hawaii Nei Institute, pottery conservator on archaeological digs, and paddler extraordinaire, Wyeth helped start the VTP and has been permanent secretary since it started in 1996.

Marianne “Mimi” George, Ph.D, is an anthropologist, sailor, and writer specialized in voyaging cultures. In the Vaka Taumako Project for the last 21 years she documented how Taumako Polynesians build voyaging canoes and make voyages using ancient technology, materials, tools, and navigation methods.. George made 25 inter-island voyages in the Santa Cruz Islands, and one voyage from Duffs through Vanuatu, under the sailing directions of Te Aliki Kaviea or with him on board. She aims to complete the book “Sailing with Lata” in 2014.