15 May 2016

Kapa haka: behind the scenes

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 15 May 2016

In part two of this series about Māori music and the arts, Te Ahi Kaa is at the Mataatua Kapa Haka Regionals 2016.

Kapa haka (traditional Māori performing arts) has evolved steadily in the past decade. Tame Iti describes today as ‘more kinda Hollywood’. Hine Mamaku says for her it is a ‘bit too fast’, and Ruatahuna Kakahu Mauku member Rangiriri Rangitauira says ‘It’s our current affairs, it’s how we give narratives’.

Te Maakarini Temara is a lecturer in Mātauranga Māori and a kapa haka tutor and past performer. He says there are a number of changes that have come into play on the stage, the culture has shifted, but the one thing that remains is that kapa haka is a vehicle to vent anger, concern, and disgust with any issues of the day.

"Anything political it is said on the marae ātea, Anything political, it is said on stage” Te Maakarini Temara.

Rutene Hohua and Te Maakarini Temara

Rutene Hohua and Te Maakarini Temara Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

So, what will kapa haka look like in 30 years time? Dr Hauata Palmer, from the pakeke group Te Moutere o Matakana me Rangiwaea, says it will always be modified.

There is a time and place for the classics and there's a time and place for the contemporary – that’s the view of Tangiora Tawhara from the kapa haka group Ruatāhuna Korosins.

“It will be interesting, but nevertheless kāore i mate. That’s synonymous to saying what will the language be like in 20 years? My response will be "kāore i mate, ka ora haere tonu te kapa haka, te whanau, te iwi, te hapu” - Te Maakarini Temara.

Te Whāruarua o Ruatoki hosted this year’s Mataatua Regional Kapa Haka, which hundreds attended over two days in mid-April. The regionals is the qualifying rounds to compete at the biennial national kapa haka competition Te Matatini.

Tame Iti

Tame Iti Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Tame Iti recalls a time when there was friendly competition in the area between neighbouring iwi and hapū. Although he has a background in theatre, Tame took kapa haka and skills in Mau Rakau with him when he moved to the South Island for the Maori Trades Training Scheme in the 1970s.

In 2014 The Ministry of Culture and Heritage and Te Matatini launched a research report about the benefits of kapa haka and its role both on and off the stage. The report looked into the social, health and economic values that stemmed from kapa haka.

Te Matatini 2017 will be held in Hastings. The next regional competitions will be held on May 21 in Christchurch, June 11 for the Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) groups and on June 18 in Whanganui.