Eruera Keepa won't need to look too far for inspiration as he cycles between the resting place of his older sister and the stage for Te Matatini ki Te Ao 2019.

Keepa is the brother of Rotorua's Talei Morrison and today , he joins 11 others as they cycle from Kauae Cemetery to Wellington to take Morrison's Smear Your Mea message to the thousands who will congregate for the festival.

"It's awesome to be able to use my sister's standing within the world of kapa haka to promote such an important message.

"We know she is on this journey with us and she brings that personal perspective to it."


Talei Morrison died on June 16, 2018, aged 42, after a nine-month battle with cervical cancer.

The mother of three founded the Smear Your Mea campaign, encouraging Māori women to get health checks and smears using the kapa haka scene she was a prominent part of.

At Talei Morrison's funeral last year, close friend Tiria Waitai said she planned to continue the Smear Your Mea campaign and aimed to have 100 per cent of the kaihaka (performers) up to date on their smears by the next Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival.

Keepa admitted he was not a cyclist before the Ride for Talei was first mooted and the past few months had taught him a lot.

"I have developed a healthy respect for cycling and for cyclists."

Keepa said his sister would be his source of strength and inspiration during the ride.

"I'm pretty confident my body is capable but it might be the mental challenge that is the hardest. But I know she will be there beside us and that will keep me going."

He said it was an honour to be taking the message to the performers and to the audience of Te Matatini.


"We, as Māori, tend to be a bit shy when it comes to things like this.

"But we need to take care of ourselves and make sure the people we love are looking after themselves too."

Keepa has performed at previous Te Matatini festivals but will not be at this year's one.

The pair's mother Sandy Morrison and one of her best friends, Te Ururoa Flavell, will also be part of the group cycling to Te Matatini.

"Talei's campaign #sym has become the vehicle for a greater cause and that is for us to take charge of our health and go get ourselves checked," Morrison said.

"Move beyond your whakamā so that you can live healthy meaningful lives and be here for your whānau."

A karakia will be held at Kauae Cemetery at 7.30am on Friday before The Ride for Talei leaves Rotorua.

The cyclists will ride through towns in the central and lower North Island and will have information about cervical cancer testing to distribute.

They will also be encouraging men to have prostate cancer checks.

The group plans to arrive at Te Matatini on February 20, the day the festival starts. There they will continue to promote the Smear Your Mea campaign.

For the first time, cervical cancer screening tests will be available to women over the course of the competition.

Bike stops

February 15: Rotorua, Taupo, Turangi

February 16: Turangi, national Park, Ohakune, Waiouru

February 17: Waiouru, Taihape, Bulls

February 18: Bulls, Foxton, Levin, Otaki

February 19: Otaki, Porirua

February 19: Porirua, Wellington and Te Matatini