Rotorua fills up for Te Matatini kapa haka festival

By Sonya Bateson

The ball is rolling for massive kapa haka festival Te Matatini, with accommodation in Rotorua selling out, ticket sales on the right track and pre-events starting up.

Te Matatini is the national kapa haka competition held every two years, which attracts thousands of performers and supporters.

Rotorua team Te Mataarae i Orehu won the last competition in 2011 and will defend their title in February. The event is at the Rotorua International Stadium and organisers are hoping for a turnout of up to 25,000 on each of the four days of competition.

Accommodation for Te Matatini is already looking heavily booked.

Owner/operator of Cedarwood Lakeside Holiday Resort Fiona Suurenbroek said she was booked out four months ago.

She said a kapa haka group had booked the entire place before they were even sure whether they had got to Te Matatini, but had recently confirmed they would be attending.

The Comfort Inn and Suites Coachman on Fenton St said there were a number of bookings for family members and spectators attending the kapa haka, Holiday Inn in Whakarewarewa reported they were looking busy with supporters and a kapa haka group booking accommodation, Kingsgate Hotel on Fenton St said they had a few teams and were pretty much fully booked.

Te Matatini executive director Darrin Apanui said things were well on track for a successful festival.

"We have in place a terrific venue map which outlines how the stadium will look over the four-day period. The performers are all well up to speed with what's happening and we have a number of key sponsors in place."

Mr Apanui said he was encouraging people from the Te Arawa and Mataatua areas to get in early to buy tickets before they went up in price by $20 at the end of December as it might be hard for some whanau to afford tickets after Christmas. Tickets could also be a good idea for a Christmas present.

He said the host committee was working on the details around the powhiri (welcome), looking after the kaumatua and kuia (elders) and providing manaaki (hospitality) throughout the whole event.

This Monday, brings the beginning of Te Matatini festivities. A major national forum on Maori performing arts, Nga Mana Whakairo a Toi - Celebrating Haka Excellence, is expected to bring 600 people to the Rotorua Convention Centre.

Organised by Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi: indigenous-university in association with Te Matatini, this will be the first national event of this scale and organisers hope it will become an annual event.

Rotorua-based Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi tutor and Maori Performing Arts regional co-ordinator Rob Ruha said the symposium would offer a forum to discuss kapa haka issues in an academic arena and allow performing arts enthusiasts to learn first-hand from leading artists.

"These sessions will provide opportunities for people to ask any burning questions, such as 'what makes a winning composition?' and get hints and tips first-hand from the top exponents in these fields."

Keynote speakers and panellists include Te Matatini chairman Selwyn Parata, Te Waka Huia tutors Tapeta and Annette Wehi, Te Matatini haka judge Joe Harawira of Ngati Awa and singer-songwriter Maisey Rika.

Topics will include performing arts history, the legacy of Te Waka Huia, and the role of judges within the Te Matatini kapa haka forum.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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