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Analysis: Drua Trainer Plans On Home Voyage

True canoe knowledge has faded over time in Fiji with only a few communities holding the fragile remnants of these traditions.
05 Aug 2020 15:44
Analysis: Drua Trainer Plans On Home Voyage
Captain Setareki Ledua on board i Vola Sigavou.

Captain Setareki Ledua is a young man with a mission: to reinvigorate traditional knowledge of Fijian boat building and seafaring.

Having grown up in Vulaga, he sailed to Suva back in 2003 for his high school education on the Tai Kabara.

Over the past few years he has been sailing on canoes across the Pacific, trained as a traditional navigator, and since 2016 has been crew and then captain of i Vola Sigavou, the drua we built and launched in Navua.

Since 2018 he has trained over 300 Fijian youths on Viti Levu in the history of drua, having developed a drua sail training programme based on both theory and practical sailing lessons on i Vola Sigavou with the financial support of IUCN and the US embassy.

Now Setareki Ledua plans to undertake an historic voyage and sail i Vola Sigavou over 250 miles from Vuda, where the drua has been for the past year, back to the Lau, an epic undertaking.

Canoe culture

Canoe culture underpins history, iconography, heritage and connectivity across Oceania.

True canoe knowledge has faded over time in Fiji with only a few communities holding the fragile remnants of these traditions.

My family built i Vola Sigavou as an experiment, to see if we could create employment for Fijian mataisau in today’s modern economy, and for the past four years have managed to do just that as Drua Experience.

However, with the economic collapse of the tourism market, this is no longer feasible right now.

So we have decided that it is the ideal time to support Seta’s dream to sail i Vola Sigavou back to the drua’s traditional home of the Southern Lau.

As far as we know, this is a voyage that has not been undertaken in probably 100 years.

Seta’s vision is to both record the knowledge held by the women of the Lau of sail making (something that has been poorly researched to date) and to give the youth of the most remote communities in Fiji an opportunity to learn about their boat-building heritage and to have practical experience of sailing on a drua.

The voyage will also raise awareness of Fijian seafaring heritage and Seta plans to make a documentary film of the journey.

Voyage

This he sees as a first step on a longer journey to set up a traditional boat building school in the Lau.

The voyage is one of celebration, a salute Fiji’s seafaring heritage and boat building prowess.

It is also one of reconnection, Seta’s ancestors built the Ratu Finau (the drua housed in Fiji Museum that was the model for i Vola Sigavou) an be expected, the planned voyage is generating a lot of interest, and I’m delighted that key figures in Fiji’s sailing world are already offering their patronage.

I’m also hoping others will come in to support Seta, whether that is by donating cargo the drua can carry (e.g. sports or school equipment for villages en-route), by offering their skills, or by making a financial contribution to help cover the costs of the voyage.

Seta has set up a GoFundMe page for anyone who is able to provide some financial support.

Now, more than ever, Fiji needs to be celebrating its strengths and resilience – and what could be more fitting than a young Fijian sea captain sailing his drua back to his home village and back again, sharing the experience with communities along the way? If anyone is interested in supporting Seta achieve his dream and undertaking this epic voyage, please get in touch via Facebook or Instagram (@DruaExperience).

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