We are improving Collections Online. Help us by completing a survey and go in the draw to win a $50 Prezzy or Amazon voucher. Start survey (takes 10 mins)

Search our collections

Advanced Search

Object: Vaka (canoe) Tauhunu

This image has Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND Creative Commons BY-NC-ND copyright licence

Title Vaka (canoe) Tauhunu
Medium summary Pearl shell, wood, coconut fibre
Materials shell, wood, coir
Classification canoes, dugouts
Technique inlay, woodcarving
Dimensions Overall: 8860mm (Length) x 430mm (Width) x 1050mm (Height)
Credit line Purchased 1907
Registration number FE010421

This vaka (canoe) is from the atoll of Manihiki in the Northern Cook Islands and was probably made in the late nineteenth century. Its name is Tauhunu and it is one of only a few full-size vaka from Manihiki known to exist in museums today. Tauhunu was originally sent to the Christchurch International Exhibition in 1906 by Colonel Walter Edward Gudgeon, a New Zealander who was working in the Cook Islands at that time. In 1907, after the exhibition, Tauhunu was acquired for the Dominion Museum by director Augustus Hamilton.

Used mainly inside the lagoon, Tauhunu is an outrigger vaka that could be either sailed or paddled. The hull is immaculately finished and precisely tapered. It is decoratively inlaid with carefully cut pieces of pearl shell that also spell out Tauhunu - the name of the main village on the Manihiki atoll.

In the late 1990s, Tauhunu was carefully restored by Te Papa conservation staff, and members of the Manihiki community were consulted on aspects of its care and future access. The vaka is a significant treasure, for although canoe building continued in Manihiki until recently, modern examples do not match the quality of workmanship used to construct Tauhunu.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.