On a recent work trip to the Netherlands, Janika Ter Ellen got to interview King Willem-Alexander in his opulent palace in The Hague and take a guided tour of the famous artworks in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum gallery.
But an unexpected highlight came in the university town of Leiden, where the Prime News presenter and Newshub reporter visited the National Museum of Ethnology, home to the only Maori ceremonial waka outside of New Zealand.
There, Janika – who is one-quarter Dutch but had never visited Holland before – was greeted with an incredible haka from the local rowing club, who then invited her for a waka paddle through the windmill-studded canals of Leiden.
“It was like my two cultures colliding,” recalls the former Paul Henry Show co-presenter, 29. “It was so weird seeing our traditions transplanted to the other side of the world, but so cool that they had so much respect for it. Although I’m not sure how special they realised it was – they asked me if I paddle around in a waka back home!”
The carved kauri waka, named Te Hono ki Aotearoa and made in Doubtless Bay by master builder Hekenukumai Busby, was given to the museum on permanent loan on the condition that ti be used and not just put on display.
The Royal Dutch Rowing Club Njord was chosen to be trained by Maori cultural experts and a select few travel to New Zealand every Waitangi Day. The club’s chairman Niels van den Berg says, “As a crew, we train weekly, every Wednesday, to stay in shape. We train our hakas, waiatas and paddling as much as possible.”
For more about Janika’s emotional visit to her beloved grandfather’s homeland, see our latest issue.
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