12 Feb 2017

Joe Harawira, haka judge

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 12 February 2017
Joe Harawira has been involved with Kapahaka since the early 1970's, he will Judge at this years Te Matatini.

Joe Harawira has been involved with Kapahaka since the early 1970's, he will Judge at this years Te Matatini. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

E Haka i te Haka a Tanerore
E tu i te tu a Tanerore
Kaua e tu i te haka a te Karetao.

This week in the series He Tangata Pūkenga, Te Ahi Kaa meets Joe Harawira.

From 1978 to 2008, Joe was the Manukura Tāne (Male Leader) of Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato (the University of Waikato). He can count one one hand how many practises he missed.

As 47 kapahaka groups count the days until Te Matatini, Joe is preparing to take up his role as a judge for the fifth time.

Joe says at every national competition the bar is raised.

“I see dynamism, I see a different type of energy from the performances, I see the use of more props, the purists would say the only props you should have is the taiaha, the weapons and the poi, nowadays you have all of these other things that are coming in which enhance the story.”

Joe has been around kapahaka since he was a child, his first memory of it was from the hem of his mother’s skirt when she tutored the Whakatane Youth Club. Learning kapahaka continued on to primary school in Whakatane and Secondary School at St Stephens in Auckland.

He enrolled at teachers training college in Hamilton where he continued Kapahaka and then onto the University of Waikato. During his 30 years with Te Kapahaka o Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, he was also the Tainui Delegate for Te Matatini for 16 years, and the Chair of the Tainui Waka Cultural Trust.

He then went on to compete at 13 national competitions, his last stand on the national stage was 2005 in Palmerston North.

Joe's first foray into judging was spurred on by his then tutor, the language exponent and composer Timoti Karetu, who invited four of his students including Hekia Parata, Te Rita Papesch and Tawhara Maxwell to judge one item at the Whakatane regionals.

They gave their comments to the main judges which included Anituatua Black and John Rangihau who took their comments and provided feedback.

He takes his role as a judge seriously and is impressed at the excellence of the stories and the Māori language in compositions.

“You have to understand the nuances, you have to understand the tikanga. It behoves a judge to understand the different styles and the different tikanga that each of those rohe have in terms of their stance on stage, you have to be quite open to that.”

Joe says the skill is in the storytelling and he isn’t surprised at the young age of some of the tutors. He says it is indicative of their upbringing and their relationship to the kuia or kaumatua who have obviously nurtured them in the arts.

“The bar is lifted. If you get into that top 9 you have done a great job. There is intense concentration, at the end of the judging day you’ve judged 14, 15 teams, half an hour each. At the end of the evening…you are drained, you just want to go to bed and be fresh for the next day”

Joe Harawira is based in Whakatane and has travelled the world extensively, sharing his knowledge of Māori art forms. He was part of the Māori language storytelling group Te Reo Wainene o Tua and works with the Department of Conservation as the Kaihautu – Te Kotahitanga (Manager Strategic Partnerships) for the National Office.