8 Aug 2012

Chilean government welcomes Maori waka project

8:30 am on 8 August 2012

The Maori Arts and Crafts Institute says the support shown by Chile for Maori to build a closer bond with Rapanui, or Easter Island, demonstrates a willingness to reconnect two cultures separated only by the Pacific Ocean.

Rapanui is a territory of Chile administrated from the mainland.

Chilean government officials, academics and anthropologists are supporting the Waka Tapu expedition to the island in August - a project that will lead to student exchanges with New Zealand.

Two double-hulled waka carrying 24 crew leave Auckland next week for Easter Island.

Institute director Karl Johnstone says Rapanui indigenous leaders and the Chilean government have welcomed the project with open arms.

He says there is certainly a collective desire from the Chilean capital Santiago to make a difference and nurture all the opportunities possible for indigenous people both in South America and Easter Island.

Mr Johnstone says the Waka Tapu expedition is very exciting and will help act as a catalyst for some of the opportunities.

Chile's ambassador to New Zealand, Isauro Torres, says the initiative highlights the many connections both past and present between Chile and New Zealand.