Forty young Wairarapa students helped lay the foundations at the inaugural Wairarapa Kapa Haka Academy for a revival in secondary school Maori arts performance in the region.

Wairarapa REAP academy manager Makuini Kerehi said the three-day event at Wairarapa College concluded yesterday and featured a distinguished parade of tutors and presenters including keynote speakers and seasoned performers Mihirangi Hollings, Aporonia Arahanga and Kereama Te Ua.

Other tutors, most of whom were from Wairarapa, included Mike Kawana, Francis McNally Te Maari, Manu Kawana, Pam Robinson, Hone Hurihanganui, Lily Arahanga, and Shari Taylor. Support staff for the academy included Paora Ammunson and Trudy Sears.

Lessons included waiata, poi, haka, leadership and goal-setting, song composition, drama, and mau rakau weaponry, and the event was capped with the students staging several performances for whanau they had learned over the duration of the academy and a shared meal, Mrs Kerehi said.

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The tutors for the inaugural academy were each experienced and high-calibre performers in their own right, with several having forged careers in Maori performance art, she said.

"Our guest speakers have each travelled extensively around the world and pursued careers in kapa haka and hopefully they will help open similar career doors for young Wairarapa performers as well."

Taking pride of place throughout the event was Te Matatini mauri - a 26kg argillite stone said to hold the vital nature of the national Te Matatini Kapa Haka Aotearoa competition.

Mrs Kerehi said the attending students had come from secondary schools throughout the region and there were tutors scouting for prospective members of a Wairarapa group to compete in kapa haka at a regional level.

"We haven't had a secondary school team competing for a long while now, so this is really awesome to help bring that back to the region and back to life."

The Wairarapa REAP goals include the development of future leaders and tutors and to "grow futures" for students who could move in to Maori performance arts as a career, she said, and to revitalise performance tuition and competition among secondary schools in the region.

She said the annual Wairarapa REAP Kapahaka Festival was today the largest in Wairarapa and for this year the contest would be thrown open for the first time to secondary school teams.

"We want to encourage kapa haka at a secondary school level and this year we've opened up the Wairarapa REAP contest to the colleges.

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"We hope that just as the competition has given our primary schools a reason to incorporate kapa haka into their curriculum, our colleges will do the same."

Mrs Kerehi said the academy will be biennial.

Sponsors for the academy included Whanau Ora Wairarapa, Masterton Arts Fund, Wairarapa Moana, Trust House, Compass Health and the Creative Communities NZ scheme through Masterton District Council.