Damon Salesa hoping his vaka idea will float

It's not every day you get gifted a Niuean vaka. Now comes the challenge of where it should go next.

Material culture specialist Dante Botica with the Niuean vaka, now in storage at the University.
Material culture specialist Dante Botica with the Niuean vaka, now in storage at the University. Photo: Elise Manahan

Damon Salesa, Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific at the University of Auckland, has an idea he wants to float. Well, at least hang from the rafters.

A few months ago he was gifted a Niuean vaka (outrigger canoe) and he’d like to see it hanging somewhere in the new South Auckland Campus, in a similar way to the waka hanging in the Fale Pasifika on the City Campus.

“The vaka was given to me by Dante Botica, one of our material culture specialists. It was given to him and he was looking for a home for it. It had come from Niue decades ago.

"The problem is the cost of getting the vaka stabilised enough to move it to South Auckland. It can’t be relocated in its current condition. It’s too fragile and has borer.”

Damon says he's not sure how old the vaka is, but does know its significance in Niue.

“It has been fibreglassed and it’s a living object, not a museum object. I want to find more about it as we don’t really know much. 

“But I do know it’s a powerful symbol of the journey and a connection to the ocean. You’re not far from the ocean in Manukau, so it would be good if one day we can display it out there at the new campus.”

The new South Auckland campus is due to open in Semester One 2020. 

The waka hanging in the Fale on the City Campus. Damon Salesa hopes his new vaka could do the same at the South Auckland campus.
The waka hanging in the Fale on the City Campus. Damon Salesa hopes his new vaka could do the same at the South Auckland campus.