In just a few months, Hokulea will start her journey around the world, visiting 28 countries over three years.
The voyaging canoe is scheduled to leave Honolulu on May 17 and leave Hilo about a week later for international waters. She’ll voyage south to Hawaii’s ancestral lands of Polynesia for the first time in 15 years.
“From my lens, the first leg is one of the most important ones, because that takes us back to Kahikinui, takes us to Tahiti, takes us back to our ancestral family,” said Polynesian Voyaging Society president Nainoa Thompson.
Hokulea should reach Aotearoa, New Zealand in November, then Australia in summer of 2015, and by November of next year, Madagascar. These places may not be a part of Polynesia, but they’re still considered ohana, or family.
“People all the way from Rapa Nui in the east and all the way to Madagascar in the west speak a shared group of languages,” said Mara Mulroney, an anthropologist at Bishop Museum. “What that tells us as archaeologists is that those groups of people are historically related to one another.”
Mulroney says you’ll find similar words, like canoe, which is called uaka in Madagascar, waka in New Zealand and waʻa in Hawaii. Bird is manu everywhere, from Madagascar to Hawaii, and there are more similarities going back to before Hawaii was settled.
“About a thousand years before that, people were embarking on these large voyages of exploration and of settlement of Madagascar and they were taking things with them like kalo and other canoe plants that we know Polynesians were also taking with them to settle their distant islands,” Mulroney said.
By the end of 2015, Hokulea will arrive in South Africa, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who sailed on Hokulea last year, hopes to greet Hawaii’s canoes and crew and introduce them to the Zulu tribe.
“We may be 2,000 years old at the most, the youngest sibling of humanity, (while) they may be the oldest, 140,000-180,000 years old,” Thompson said. “The fact that that culture kept itself intact and alive and the beauty and the strength of that culture is there for us to meet, as a younger sibling, it’s like the youngest meeting the oldest.”
In 2016, Hokulea will voyage on to Namibia, Brazil, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Miami and up the East Coast. In 2017, Hokulea will stop in Panama, Costa Rica, the Galapagos, then head home to Polynesia – Rapa Nui, the Marquesas, Tahiti – reaching Hilo in summer 2017, having woven a lei of malama honua, caring for this island earth and each other.
“In humility and respect, we go to all the world’s cultures to engage and create better relationships,” Thompson said. “I think is road to peace.”