Arts symposium draws big crowd to Rotorua

By Sonya Bateson

It was standing room only at the inaugural Maori performing arts symposium.

People from all over the North Island made their way to the Rotorua Convention Centre yesterday for a day-long symposium on the Maori performing arts, with attendees visiting workshops and listening to experts share their knowledge.

The event was organised by Whakatane-based Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi: indigenous-university in association with Te Matatini Society and was the first - but not the last - of its kind.

Organising team member Donna Grant said the day was a celebration of the excellence of kapa haka.

"When it's put into an academic centre of a conference nature, the presentations have provided validation of the richness of our culture that is imbued within the items we perform on the competitive stage, on the marae and in our communities."

Mrs Grant said most parts of the North Island were covered in terms of people attending, including two iconic Maori performing arts exponents: Dr Ngapo Wehi and Morvin Simon.

She said the presentations at the symposium spoke to the audience on an emotional level.

"The engagement of emotions, the freedom of people celebrating what has been on stage has been seen by the tears, the laughter, the applause, the stillness of the audience as they were trying to hang on to every word and the sheer connectivity between the speakers and the audience. In other words, it's been fab."

Symposium attendee Te Ranui Black (Tuhoe, Tuwharetoa, Te Whakatohea, Te Arawa, Ngai Te Rangi) said he had loved every minute of the symposium.

"It's the first time for this and it has been absolutely fantastic, more so for the young people. We got a small group from Te Tawharau a Mataatua, the kapa haka team created to support the Mataatua wharenui. We brought about 10 of them over here to experience this type of knowledge." Mr Black said it was standing room only at the Convention Centre.

"The theatre has just filled up so much from this morning. We had close to 250 people earlier but now it's standing room only. The wonderful thing is there are a lot of young people here, although as adults we're also enjoying it."

He said it was important to support all of the performing arts. "It's a big thing for me because I've got four children, myself and my wife that were all part of Awanuiarangi."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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