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Te Papa host Matariki celebrations

Turongo Paki, Matariki kōrero: Living legends of kapa haka, The Post, 26 June 2024

Turongo Paki is chairperson of He Kura Te Tangata Trust.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Te Puru o Tāmaki, Taikura Kapa Haka 2018, Te Papa. Supplied.

Kapa haka is so much more than what you see and hear on the stage – for some like Bill Nathan who will perform at the Taikura Kapa Haka annual festival this weekend at Te Papa, it has shaped his life.

Nathan hasn’t missed a single Taikura – the first one was in 2005 as part of Te Matatini in Palmerston North. His relationship with haka, however, started almost 70 years ago when he and his sisters joined the Ngāti Pōneke Young Māori Club in 1955 alongside their mother.

“’Education comes first my boy’, she would always say, and she didn’t let me join the club until I had finished college and was studying at Victoria University,” Nathan said.

Decades have passed and still the thrill of performing is strong, but it’s the moments off stage that are just as important for Nathan and his wife Donas: “It brings everyone together – we have a great time off stage catching up and reminiscing about old times and watching each group perform. We can put our own mortality aside and just enjoy the moment,” he said.

Taikura Kapa Haka is a showcase and celebration of both kapa haka and kaumātua. This weekend, 24 rōpū (groups) and more than 750 kaihaka (performers) from all over Aotearoa will take the stage.

Taikura refers to the aged rings being the heart of the Totara tree, and in the context of the festival, relates to kaumātua being the heart and soul of our people.

Its origins date back to early 2000 and the late Te Arikinui Kahurangi (Dame) Te Atairangikaahu who saw the need for performers who no longer participated in Māori performing arts competitions to have a place where old action songs, poi, haka and waiata could be performed again.

As a result, in 2005, under the chairmanship of the late Tama Huata, Taikura was introduced to Te Matatini with the kaupapa of reviving and performing compositions that were composed prior to 1970 by iconic figures such as Princess Te Rangi Pai, Ariki Te Puea Herangi, Hone Heke. Sir Apirana Ngata, Paraire Tomoana, Kingi Tahiwi, Guide Bella, Te Aritaua Pitama, Tuini Ngawai, and many others.

In 2008 Taikura became part of Te Papa’s Matariki celebrations where it continues to be held today. Later that year He Kura Te Tangata Trust was formed to oversee the kaupapa with Tama Huata as the inaugural Chair, alongside trustees Te Paekiomeka Ruha, Mamae Takerei, Julie Dwyer and Puti Mackey.

Taikura continues to grow and is a special event providing a significant opportunity for kaumātua to come together to learn and perform together in a non-competitive environment through wānanga, performance and archival research.

Equally important, it’s an occasion to whakamana our kuia and koroua and the rich mātauranga they bring to the stage.

Bill Nathan says: “Taikura and kapa haka also offers us old ones other benefits.

“It’s a recreational activity which is good for us as we get older in terms of physical activity. It’s not something we should leave to the young people, just because we need to sit down after five minutes doesn’t mean we can’t participate in a way that we enjoy.”

Te Papa kaihautū/Māori co-leader Dr Arapata Hakiwai says Taikura is a highlight of the museum’s annual calendar. He acknowledged the privilege to be able to support the kaupapa.

“Taikura embodies the Matariki values of noho tahi (coming together), kotahitanga (unity), whakanui (celebration), tohatohatanga (sharing) and whanaungatanga (kinship) that Te Papa holds dear,” Hakiwai said.

This year’s event was made possible because of Te Māngai Pāho, Te Puni Kōkiri, Te Matatini, Te Taura Whiri I te Reo Māori, Te Tumu Paeroa and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Entry is free and if you can’t make it in person, you can watch the livestream at tepapa.nz/Matariki.