This week 180 talented youngsters from four primary and intermediate schools are packing their new costumes and travel uniforms to compete in the national schools kapa haka contest in Nelson.
The children, aged between seven and 11, are from Matapihi and Maungatapu primary schools, Tauranga Intermediate and Te Kura te Otepou in Welcome Bay. They’re off to represent the Bay of Plenty at a national competition, Mana Kuratahi, held every two years.
Each of the four teams has 45 children and there are up to 45 other schools from around the country keen to show their skills in kapa haka. Last week they showed their top-secret 20-minute package of waiata, poi and kapa haka to the funders who have helped get them to the competition and to the whānau who can’t go with them.
They have been helped to get to the South Island by BayTrust, TECT, Tauranga City Council and Te Matahui Mataatua Kapa Haka to cover about $3000 per child in flights, accommodation, food, uniforms and contributions to the contest organisers. SociaLink, which supports the Western Bay of Plenty social and community sector, assisted in finding funders to help.
The competition is held every two years – but in 2021 the children missed out because of Covid 19, and some senior students have now moved on to high school, so this year’s contest is doubly important.
Their package is unique and developed by Kaiako (teacher) Teraania Oteki. The children have been practicing for a year and last week’s presentations to funders and parents was flawless.
Maungatapu Principal Tane Bennett said the children will have many first-time experiences – being away from home, getting on a plane and living together at a motor camp before they compete on October 31 in the four-day contest.“It’s a bit of a David and Goliath contest as our school units are small. For most it will be the first time they’ve even been on a plane.”
The students have already competed in a regional contest to select the top performers to compete in the national contest.
For one student, Floyd Buchanan, 10, the competition is his chance to inspire other New Zealanders who aren’t Māori to take part in kapa haka and excel. He’s English, blond and fair skinned, and arrived in New Zealand just a few years ago, complete with an English accent. But it’s his chance to “show his Māori side”.
“I can show the world that people like me can speak Māori fluently, be front row, have a lead role and inspire other kids like me.”
His Kaiako, Tehira Jack-Kino, says Floyd has been learning Māori for three years and is fluent and flourishing in the culture.
“He can find a way to belong and is an integral part of the class, a rangatira, a tuakana or older brother to younger students.”
Photo shows: Performers from left, Ihaka Mahia, Paraone Rayner, Brooklyn Thomson, Houkana Te Kani, Ether Tukukino, Te Ngaio Ririnui