First Rarotonga community kapa haka group launches

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

In a milestone first a community waiata Māori group has formed in Rarotonga. The 40-plus group has come together to rekindle their connections with Māori culture, and life in Aotearoa through Māori song. 

Derek Tini Fox of Ngati Porou said it was good to hear Māori language and songs on the Aotearoa marae. 

“And to support the group, when there are gatherings, why shouldn’t we go along to support.”

Pamela Brider nō Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, returned to Rarotonga 12 years ago and jumped at the chance to reconnect with her Māori heritage. 

“Being in Rarotonga we thought it would be a good thing for us to learn about our Māori side,” said Brider. 

“So, we need to learn some Māori songs as well and my daughter loves to sing.”

Missing waiata

Last year In October founder Anna Glassie put a Facebook post on the Rarotonga Community page to guage interest in forming a Rarotonga-based waiata Māori group, and the response was overwhelming.

“For me it was just about missing waiata back home and, also working for iwi, we were always a part of singing waiata,” Glassie said.

“So I think just yearning for music back home, and again when Covid hit, a lot of us weren’t able to go home.” 

There are even a few faithful Pākehā members.

Robert Aitken from Ashburton says it’s the first kapa haka group that he’s ever been involved in.

“It’s quite surreal isn’t it that I had to come all the way to Rarotonga before joining a kapa haka,” Aitken said. 

Whakawhanaungatanga

“I thought wow, what a great opportunity to be involved in the community, but also to start really trying to understand the Māori culture, and to learn the Māori language.”

“Something really good I’ve observed, is some had reservations about joining, but, under the banner of the singalong group, they’ve joined,” Fox said.

The group will host Waitangi Day (CIT) celebrations at the marae for whānau and friends, where they will entertain the gathering and share kai. 

“What I love most is just the whakawhanaungatanga, the manaakitanga and just again,” Glassie said.

“all of us coming together, just celebrating, enjoying things about home, about Aotearoa, and just yeah, the waiata.”

In a lead-up to celebrations a New Zealand Maori Film will play at the hostel every night from February 4.