BY TAVAKE SIMON HANA’AROA
AFTER 23 years of video documentation and 8 years of working on making the film under the Vaka Taumako Project, it is now on screen for the first time in Hawaii and the US and Canada.
We the Voyagers: Lata’s Children is a two-part documentary film series on the navigational skill of the Polynesian voyagers of Taumako (Duff Islands) in Temotu Province, as they share their history, through story-telling, canoe building using designs and methods their culture-hero, Lata, who built the first voyaging canoe (Vaka) and navigated to distant islands once used and it features documentary features the founding fathers of the Vaka Taumako Project and the community members of Taumako.
In an interview with Dr. Mimi George Director of the Vaka Taumako Project of Pacific Traditions Society and a Trustee of Vaka Valo Association of Solomon Islands, she said this is really the first time that Taumako culture has been represented on film, though there are videos being shot by the BBC in 2006 and some German filmmakers in 2002, but did not represent the Taumako culture and knowledge, as the filmmakers just making up their own stories.
“Some Germans in 2002 and the BBC in 2006 shot some video, but they made up their own stories and did not represent Taumako culture or knowledge.
“They broke agreements to allow review and corrections to inaccuracies.
“So this is really the first time that Taumako culture has been represented on film, and it is because Taumako people themselves have decided on the subjects and did a lot of the shooting, acting, narrations writing, and translations,” Dr. Mimi George who is an anthropologist, sailor, and writer who specializes in voyaging cultures said.
She stressed that the Film work was the idea of the late Te Aliki Kaveia, the then Paramount Chief of Taumako.
“Taumako leaders and elders wanted documentation of voyaging knowledge for the benefit of their new generations, as they were seeking for help from outside to do the Vaka Taumako Project, to train a new generation to build and sail in the way that their ancestor, Lata, the first voyager, did.
“They want the films to make outsiders aware of the extensive environmental knowledge and sustainable practices of their ancestors.
“And that is when Paramount Chief Te Aliki Kaveia asked me for help and that was in 1993,” she said.
She continued: “They know that youth of Taumako want to know where they came from, who they are, and how they can know what their ancestors knew and did.
“They have been well aware of climate change and their knowledge is valuable for figuring out what is changing and how to live more sustainably,” she added.
As the screening is currently underway in the United States and Canada, the Vaka Valo Association is also planning for another screening to be made in the country as well.
Dr. Mimi George said until the film festivals are completed the films are not allowed to be distributed or posted online.
She said both films will also be shown at Maoriland International Film Festival in Otaki New Zealand (Aotearoa) in March 2020 (this year).
The Vaka Valo Association of Solomon Islands has been a Taumako run charitable organization for the past five and half years.
Since 2017 the Pacific Traditions Society has operated under the control of the Vaka Valo Association.
Now the Vaka Taumako Project has a global reputation, their hope is that the Vaka Valo Association will become self-supporting soon.
Dr. George said they have built a vessel that the Vaka Valo Association can use to support the sea training of youth, and can run commercially to raise funds to build and support their Lata Voyaging/Culture School.
“By screening the film, Vaka Valo Association and Pacific Traditions Society are raising funds to pay for administration costs and programs of the Lata Cultural voyaging School.
“We hope that Film Festivals will bring opportunities to raise funds from TV and Theatre distribution.
Eventually, copies of the films will be available to schools and other educational organizations world-wide, Director of the Vaka Taumako Project of Pacific Traditions Society, Dr. Mimi George said.