A stalwart of Waihirere Māori Club during the 60’s – 80’s has been laid to rest by her people of Te Aitanga ā Māhaki today in Gisborne. Her name was Maungarongo Kingi, affectionately known as Aunty ‘Kitty’ by her family and members of Parihimānihi Marae.
TV personality and former Waihirere club member Mātai Rangi Smith says, “For us here in Tūranga Aunty Kitty is definitely another kapa haka icon having been raised and nurtured in the rich fabric of kapa haka and culture that is uniquely Waihirere.”
She performed at several Polynesian Festivals in the 70’s and 80’s including being part of the first team to win the Festival back in 1972 and regaining the title in 1979 in Wellington and also 1988 in Whangarei.
“She had a strong presence whenever she took to the stage and a powerful sound like no other that could often be heard over and above the 39 others in the group!”
“Ko ia te Waihirere, ko te Waihirere ko ia, kāore i kō atu”.
Amongst her family and friends was also the bond she had with the local Gisborne mayor, Meng Foon who supported Kitty in her quest to keep the Waihirere Domain swimming pool open to the public. However local government had reported on the decision to close it down due to its current state of disrepair.
Foon says, “I was the ward council and fought hard to keep the pool as it was a great spot for our community. She was a good customer at our Vege shop at Makaraka and she knew her Mahakitanga as she stood tall and proud for Waihirere.”
She died at age 73. She was also an older sister to the iconic figure of kapa haka and current tutor of Waihirere. Tangiwai Ria. Her sister who’s performed in every single national festival since 1972, Louise Nuku Kingi.
She leaves behind her loving partner Kerry Hayes with their children and grandchildren.