Monday, October 19, 2015

ATAYAL connects New Zealand and Taiwan through Maori Star Compass Project

The Maori star compass project to be built in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
 The founder of the ATAYAL Organization, Tony Coolidge, was hired in August 2015 as an advisor in Taiwan for the Maori Star Compass Project in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. This is a project organized by the Te Matau a Māui Voyaging Trust, a cultural foundation directed by Chairman Piripi Smith. The project is supported by the Hawkes Bay Regional Council. He was hired by Piripi Smith to find a suitable Austronesian design from Taiwan to symbolize the ancient Maori ancestors that came from the island that is now known as Taiwan. The design is to be used on a main pou (carved wooden totem) that serves as the West marker in the Star Compass. Special care was taken in the search for indigenous designs that were from the appropriate time period and region that would have been related to the people who migrated from Taiwan to colonize the Pacific region over 2,000 years ago.

The Maori tribe, like other Austronesian island peoples, sailed across thousands of kilometers of sea to find their Pacific colonies. They sailed in primitive sailing ships called "waka," and used no technology or maps. But instead, they used the stars, the winds and the sea. The ancient skill of sailing with the winds and the stars has been passed down for thousands of years, and has been revived in modern times by Austronesian tribes. Currently, groups of Austronesian navigators day continue to amaze people by sailing to faraway destinations across the Pacific.

The design created for the Taiwan pou.

One group that is training future generations "waka" navigators is Te Matau a Māui Voyaging Trust, through their program called "Waka Experience." An important tool for their training of navigators is a "star compass." Te Matau a Māui Voyaging Trust is developing a large Star Compass near the shores of Hawkes Bay.

To make the Star Compass, 32 carved wooden pous (totems) approximately 2-3 meters high are placed in a large circle outdoors. Six large limestone rocks will also denote the solstice points and centre of the compass. Four main pous for the North, East, South and West directions. For these main pous, the four corners of the Austronesian world are represented. The South pou is carved with a design that represents Aotearoa (New Zealand). The East pou is carved with a design that represents Easter Island. The North pou is carved with a design that represents Hawaii. The West pou is carved with a design that represents Taiwan. Under each pou will be a stone from each Austronesian land.

The Star Compass will be used primarily as an education resource for a wide range of groups; trainee navigators of waka hourua, waka crew, school, youth and community groups. With appropriate signage visitors and tourists to the region will be able to understand the basics of how celestial navigation works.

Chairman Piripi Smith approached Mr. Coolidge to get his advice on choosing a design to represent Taiwan. Coolidge did not like the choices that were presented, and advised that Mr. Smith consult with the Taiwan National Museum of Prehistory to find artifacts from the time period of approximately two thousand years ago, the time period when Austronesian ancestors left Taiwan to settle the Pacific. Subsequently, Mr. Smith hired Tony Coolidge to travel to Taitung, Taiwan to handle the task.

Waka sailing ships in New Zealand.

"This was an amazing honor for me to assist Mr. Smith with this project," said Coolidge, "Knowing that the design we choose will help Austronesians in New Zealand learn about and recognize their connection to their ancient homeland in Taiwan for generations to come."

Mr. Coolidge gave a lecture to museum staff about Taiwan's Austronesian connection with New Zealand, and worked with the museum's director, Shan-nan Chang, to select the appropriate pieces. Tony also located a stone from a beach near Dulan in Taitung County to be set under the pou in New Zealand, to represent a spiritual connection with the Taiwan homeland. Once the photos of artifacts were shared online, a selection was made, and the building process for the pou had begun. Both Mr. Coolidge and Mr. Chang hope to travel to attend the opening ceremony of the Star Compass in New Zealand.

A 3,000 yr old jade ornament from the Peimen era of Taitung County in Southern Taiwan.

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