Tā Hekenukumaingaiwi Puhipi Busby (1 August 1932 – 11 May 2019) Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu. Master navigator, waka builder, bridge between people.
Te Papa mourns the loss of a beacon for mātauranga Māori, Tā Hekenukumaingaiwi (usually shortened to Hekenukumai) Puhipi Busby, known affectionately as Hek.
Ka tahuri! Ka tahuri taku waka hourua!
Ko te kāpene o Te Aurere, kua kore.
Ko te kaumoana whakatere i ngā tai a Tangaroa, kua pae ki uta.
Ko te tohunga mātai whetū, mātai moana, kua kapi ngā whatu.
Ko te toki tārai waka, kua takoto.
Ko te kāpehu nāhau te kaupapa tere moana o Te Ika-a-Māui i ārahi, whakangaro atu rā!
Kua hinga te totara i Te Wao-Nui-a-Tāne!
E Tā, haere atu rā i runga i te tai pari ki te iwi nui e whanga mai rā mōhou. Hoatu ki a Cliff, ki a Kahurangi Cheryll, ki Te Ikanui, ki a Hema mā.
Waihotia mai Te Whānau o Te Papa hei tiaki i Te Aurere Iti e pāka mai nei ki te whakaaturanga o Mana Whenua.
Ko te wai i aku kamo, he wai tai. Ko te wai tai e rere nei i te manawa o ngā iwi o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.
Tere atu rā e te pītau whakarei ki Te Hono ki Hawaiki, koia i tapaina ai tō tāua whare e tū tahanga nei!
A leader of immense significance for te ao Māori, Hekenukumai started his professional life as an engineer who built more than 200 bridges in the Far North, before deciding he wanted to pursue tārai waka, the art of waka construction and navigation. This career change was destined to have an impact on the world and how Māori viewed our place in relation to Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.
Through his work, Hekenukumai became widely known across Aotearoa and the Pacific for the critical research he did with renowned navigator Pāpā Mau Piailug (of Satawal, Yap, Federated States of Micronesia). Mau generously shared his knowledge of customary navigation and voyaging so Hekenukumai could reconnect with ancient pathways across the Pacific and relearn celestial navigation skills to undertake these journeys. It was no coincidence that Hekenukumai’s work was seen as reconnecting Māori people to the original homeland of our oral history, Hawaiki.
Hekenukumai was a celebrated builder of ocean vessels. A self-taught man, he made approximately 26 ocean-going waka using customary methods such as adzing and employing lashing instead of nails. Among these waka is the famous Te Aurere (re-created in the model Te Aurere Iti, on Level 4 in the Mana Whenua exhibition).
The original Te Aurere was built in 1991–92 out of kauri logs, and sailed over 30,000 nautical miles to islands such as Tāhiti, Rarotonga, and Hawai‘i, an enormous achievement and acknowledgement of Hekenukumai.
Te Aurere Iti was built in 1996–97 and was sailed as part of the opening of Te Papa. It is a testament to Hekenukumai’s commitment to sharing knowledge and encouraging others that he saw Te Aurere Iti as a chance to inspire future generations of Māori to examine their origins and identity.
Hekenukumai began his professional life as an engineer who built bridges. By the end of his life, he had built bridges between people and islands, through his work rebuilding knowledge in Aotearoa of waka construction, navigation, and voyaging. He was an extraordinary man who will always be remembered.
Takoto mai rā e te tōtara whakawhiti i ngā wai, i ngā awa, i ngā moana.
Written by Paora Tibble and Puawai Cairns