Kapai's Corner - Column

By Tommy Kapai

There is a wonderful word in the Maori language called tautoko and it means to support, or stand by, and it has come up a couple of times for me this past week.
The first was at the launch of a new family support group called Tautoko, about to be implemented in Tauranga Moana, and the other was down in Gisborne where I have been attending the biannual Te Matatini o Te Ra kapa haka festival.
Kapa haka and the goal of making the national finals on the Matatini stage is equivalent to the Super 15 for Maori performing artists. More importantly for me was watching 1700 performers in 42 kapa haka groups, all dedicated role models leading the way for our kids to follow.
More than ever our tamariki need an alternative expression of cultural identity to the rap and reggae culture they are drifting towards today. Rap and reggae have their genesis in the far-off lands of Africa where their followers were left with little but lyrics of hope and redemption and the holy herb. This is not the case for Maori, who have a unique cultural heritage of their own and it should be encouraged at every opportunity.
This can only happen when our leaders stand up on stage and be counted - and stand up they did at Matatini in the form of our Maori Affairs Minister, Pita Sharples, who is the only Maori male to have competed at every Matatini festival since it started in 1972. The only difference this year was his mate, John Key, standing in the audience to tautoko him.
For my two bobs' worth of tautoko, this is the level of leadership Maori need now more than ever.
If we want to see change it has to come from the top and tautoko is a great way to make change happen.

Over the five days of the festival, I saw a snapshot of our country that gave me great heart; we are a culturally cool country with every chance of living the dream all Kiwis, Maori and Tauiwi want.
If the two big boys at the top trust each other and tautoko each other as mates, then surely their subjects will follow suit - that's how us human beings roll. Nigel Latta, the guru of growing good free-range kids, would call this positive parenting by showing behavioural leadership.
I reckon he's right on the money when it comes to tautoko.
There were other standout leaders walking their tautoko over the Matatini Festival who did Gizzy and the people of Te Tai Rawhiti proud.
I saw it in the total ban on smoking and alcohol and it wasn't just a tokenistic no smoking sticker inconveniently placed to create the same old smoke screen we see everywhere today. Not once in five days did I see a single cigarette lit up inside the grounds, nor did I see one stoned or even slightly intoxicated patron.
The reward from this level of leadership and tautoko was not one act of violence, no crying kids and no juiced-up juveniles - just heaps of happy haka fans. This is what made this Matatini festival cool for me. It was Maori being happy being Maori.
It is one thing to say no this and no that but to see stand-up Maori leaders walking the talk of tautoko at the Matatini festival was worth 10 times the cost of the ticket. For five days in front of a captive audience of 50,000, they led by example by picking up rubbish, cleaning toilets, directing traffic and rallying their army of workers in true C company style. And all of us in the audience got the message loud and clear - if you lead by tautoko, the people will follow.
One of the main messages the organisers of Matatini kept pushing was the stupidity of smoking.
The comparison given by the compere about smoking and settlements was a winner "Maori smokers pay the government $200 million in tobacco taxes, the same in what we get back in treaty settlements every year".
Not to mention the cost to their own health and the influence they have as role models. That's where tautoko kicks in. Tautoko is all about standing by and supporting each other in times of need.
Right now our tamariki here in Tauranga need all the tautoko they can get from their leaders.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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