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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: News


November 30, 2016

Fijian boats inspire SEA Semester students & Disney film “Moana”

Dr. Jeff Wescott, Assistant Professor, Anthropology

SEA Semester

SEA Semester students help launch a traditional camakau in Fiji.

This October, the students of SEA Semester S-269 (Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures & Ecosystems) voyaged through Polynesia, interacting with local communities just one month before the release of the Disney feature film "Moana." Students spent two days with the people of Nakorova village, on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji, learning traditional sailing from the same people who advised on and inspired the magnificent sailing scenes depicted in "Moana." Our gracious host, Jiujiua “Angel” Bera, is featured in a short "Moana" featurette.

One of the more memorable features of "Moana" is the distinctive design of the sailing vessels, largely inspired by the Fijian camakau. SEA Semester students joined members of the Nakorova community to launch two camakau near low tide (see photo at top); minutes later the sails were set and the vessels glided effortlessly out to sea (see photo at left). Each camakau fits two to three mariners and four to five passengers (see photo above, left to right: Noah McCord, Emily Chang, Francesca Korte, Will Ekern), and is easily recognized by the crab-claw shape of its sail, one of the many remarkable seafaring innovations of Pacific Islanders.

Our students concluded their Fijian cultural instruction with a discussion with Angel Bera about the role of the ocean and seafaring in contemporary Fijian life (see photo at right). Vinaka vaka levu to the people of Nakorova for sharing with SEA Semester their knowledge of an aspect of Pacific Island culture now gaining international attention through a major feature film.

And yes, the Capt. Peg Brandon who is credited in the film is our Peg Brandon, President of Sea Education Association, who provided the filmmakers with advice on ocean voyaging!

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