Kapa haka competition season gets underway

5:41 am on 23 February 2024
Te Kapa Haka O Te Whanau A Apanui, East Coast, North Island. Performing at WOMAD 2016

Te Kapa Haka O Te Whanau A Apanui, East Coast, North Island. Performing at WOMAD 2016 Photo: Supplied

Some of Aotearoa's finest haka rōpu will take the stage this weekend for the beginning of the biannual regional kapa haka competition season.

Hundreds of rōpu from Mātaatua, Kahungūnu and Te Tauihu will gather in their respective rohe, all vying for a spot at next year's national competition Te Matatini in New Plymouth.

Twenty-two rōpu in Mātaatua will perform - including reigning Te Matatini champions Te Whānau ā Apanui - on the beach in Tōrere, a small coastal village 20km from Ōpōtiki.

Te Kahautu Maxwell, Te Matatini's Mātaatua representative, said the competition was a major event in the local calendar because of the calibre kapa haka on offer.

Maxwell described kapa haka as food for the soul.

"Mātaatua is domiciled in a rural area. People still live in marae communities and they take a very Māori flavour to the stage. It's underpinned by tikanga and its values."

At the top of the South Island, Te Tauihu are preparing for their largest regional competition to date. The event has grown from only two senior teams competing in 2016 to six this year.

Te Tauihu delegate Tom Alesana said progress had been slow, starting with the establishment of kura kaupapa, Māori medium education and iwi reo revitalisation efforts resulting in around double the number of primary and secondary school teams. He said that's led to an increase in senior teams, particularly in the last four years.

"It's been quite quick... it's a real positive. It's because of the hapori and the shift in direction [from] just worrying about adult kapa haka and putting some time for our and and rangatahi."

Alesana said that shift had produced Te Tauihu's own unique style of haka.

"[It's] partly been influenced by many of our old people, who started things in the '70s, '80s and '90s. A lot of the tutors now are the mokopuna and children of those people.

"It's a little bit of holding on to tradition, but also trying to bring a new flavour."

Te Tauihu is on Saturday at the Trafalgar Centre in Nelson, and Ngāti Kahungnnu is at the A&P Showgrounds in Dannevirke on the same day.

Mātaatua kick off their competition Friday in Tōrere and finish Saturday evening.

All events will be live-streamed on Facebook.

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