Old strands rewoven into something new

By Greg Taipari

Over the next few weeks The Daily Post senior reporter Greg Taipari will profile the six Te Arawa groups performing at the 21st Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival. This week's profile is on one of the oldest Te Arawa groups in Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao

Whariki Gardiner says kapa haka could be likened to her first name - she says it takes more than one strand of harakeke (flax) to weave a great whariki (weaved mat). The same could be said about kapa haka. It takes more than just a great voice to make a great kapa haka group.

History is an important factor and Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao are steeped in it.

Mrs Gardiner is part of Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao, the oldest Te Arawa kapa haka group performing at this year's Te Matatini to be held in Rotorua next month.

Established in 1985 as Te Kapa Haka o Tuhourangi Ngati Wahiao, the roopu (group) have continued a legacy that has been passed down from generation to generation.

It has been said, the people of Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao were the originators of tourism in New Zealand, playing hosts to tourists visiting the Pink and White terraces prior to the Tarawera eruption in 1886. Also in 1909, led by rangatira Makerita Papakura (Guide Maggie) and Mita Taupopoki, the roopu toured Australia and England.

Mrs Gardiner, a proud grandmother, has been performing kapa haka for most of her life and was in the first Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao kapa haka group to perform at Te Matatini back in 1986.

This year, however, Mrs Gardiner will watch from the sidelines as a reserve. "I just naturally jumped back into line [when the group started to practise] and it was one of my girls who said 'mum you don't have to perform, there's heaps of girls here. Don't take it the wrong way, it's not that we don't need you but we have it covered.'

"So I pulled myself out because I'm getting too old anyway.

"They [supporters] have said 'don't you want to do the last one in Te Arawa?' But I said when you've been to every one, every national is a high. I have that thing where, yeah, it would be good but when you've done so many it can all seem the same."

However, Mrs Gardiner said it would be a different experience watching a nationals from the sidelines for the first time.

"I'm actually watching the group now and seeing the progress at practice and it's exciting, and I feel like, I'm sure I could get back in there."

The group is known for its rich theatrical sound but Mrs Gardiner said this year's crowd would hear something different from the group.

"I think you're going to be surprised this time around. [There is] a good mix of young and experienced performers. I wouldn't say young and old because my daughters are now the old ones and there's younger ones under them. So they are not old."

Mrs Gardiner says kapa haka runs deep in her family, daughter Laurelle Tamati is the kaitataki wahine (female leader), and she is proud of all her children who have performed in the group.

Although Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao have made the finals at the nationals, they are yet to claim the title, something which she said hadn't frustrated the group.

"I think every group thinks they've been ripped off ... but I think [missing out] just makes us stronger as people and it makes you strive even more," Mrs Gardiner said.

"But for us, as long as you satisfy your kaumatua, kuia (elders) at the pa and they come to practice and they sit there and go 'ahh neat all right, that was beautiful,' that in itself is enough for us."

Te Matatini 2013, runs from February 20-24 at the Rotorua International Stadium, with 41 of the nation's top groups performing to win the Duncan McIntyre Trophy, awarded to the national champions. The groups are divided into three pools with the three top teams from each pool going into the finals on February 24.

Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao, who won last year's Te Arawa regionals, are in pool three, Te Kei, and perform on February 23. Also drawn in their pool are three other Te Arawa teams; current national champs Te Mataarae i Orehu, Nga Potiki a Hinehopu and Nga Uri o Te Whanoa.

Pool Three - Te Kei

Te Pou O Mangataawhiri, Tuhourangi-Ngati Wahiao, Te Mataarae i Orehu, Te Kapahaka o Ruatoki, Turanga Ake, Te Whatukura, Ruatahuna Kakahu Mauku, Te Ahikomau a Hamo te Rangi, Nga Potiki a Hinehopu, Nga Uri o Te Whanoa, Hatea, Tu Te Maungaroa.

Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao:

Tutors: Hereana Roberts, Tuhoe Huata, Michael Rerehe, Patrick Tamati, Ngamoni Huata

Kaitataki tane (male leader): Daniel Heretaunga

Kaitataki wahine (female leader): Laurelle Tamati

Placing at Te Arawa Regionals: first

Placing at previous Te Matatini festivals: finalists but are yet to win overall title.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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