Controversial messages take centre stage at Tāmaki regionals

By Regan Paranihi

For many kaihaka, kapa haka is a platform where they can voice their opinions on some of the country's biggest issues affecting Māoridom.

This weekend 17 teams took to the stage in Auckland and gave voice to some of today's most pressing issues for Māori, offering a message to the world through an indigenous lens.

"It is a reminder to us as Māori that there is a big problem here and to not turn our backs, but to be strong and stand as one until all the land across the country is returned," Kawariki Morgan (Tainui), leader of Ngā Tumanako, says.

Ihumātao is a rewrite of history and a battle that many did not expect in this day and age.

"Look back to Bastion Point, that was a major protest for that generation and Ihumātao is our Bastion Point," Jamus Webster (Te Arawa), male leader of Te Waka Huia, says.

By using the art of kapa haka as a tool to express opinions, it keeps the conversation alive.

"It is a form that revives us so that we don't capsize, so that we don't also stand to the side and say yes we agree to carry on," Webster says.

"No, we need to learn about it so that the mind is sharp and understands. So that both the Pākehā and the Māori worlds can go side by side in this day and age."

While Ihumātao was a major topic in this year's regional competition, suicide was also one of the other key topics.

"The statistics continue to rise, especially the Māori statistics. It's hard and what good comes of it?" he says.

While the rate continues to rise for Māori, Webster says kapa haka can also be a way to cleanse yourself.

"That's why we go to the marae. Mā stands for cleanse and rae, well that's your head. And so, it is cleansing your mind."

The five Auckland teams going through to Te Matatini next year, now go away to prepare to host the other teams around the country who will take the stage at the national event in 2021.