Hundreds take to the stage at Toi Whanake

By Regan Paranihi

Hundreds took to the stage at the biannual Waikato secondary school regional competition to vie for the chance to compete at next year's national competition.

The theme of this year's event at Te Wharekura o Rākaumangamanga was 'Toi Whanake', enhancement of all aspects of kapa haka.  

The hosts grasped a prophetic saying from King Tawhiao to enhance today's festival.

"This is a gathering to enhance the new groups, the new schools and the bilingual schools in the Tainui region that have come into the haka realm. Enhance haka, enhance the groups, to enhance our judges, enhance our MC's on the stage, enhance the broadcasters and presenters on the radio station and to enhance the organisers," says Rangimarie Mahuta, Deputy Principal at Te Wharekura o Rakaumangamanga.

To many, kapa haka is a forum to celebrate Māori culture and for others it's a source of well-being.

"It's about opening the doors to the world to welcome them into the haka world. Us of Rākaumanga believe that kapa haka is a form of medicine and life," says Mahuta.

The late Talei Morrison was a prominent figure in te ao Māori and for many of these students she was an inspiration and a mentor.

"She was a big part of our school and a big part of our kapa haka team. She was one of our tutors so she meant a lot to us, so it was only right that we dedicated most of our performance to her," says Peata, the female leader of Tai Wananga.

The students at today's festival showed high levels of kapa haka skill.

"The youth of today know how to move, how to sing, to chant and to give power, strength and passion," says Mahuta.

The Deputy Principal says the tides of kapa haka have changed and may change again in coming years.

"The haka world has changed and this is haka today. As I look twenty years ahead of me, it will change again and that is the way of life."

These four teams will be representing Tainui waka at next year’s national competition

1. Te Wharekura o Rakaumanga

2. Te Maurea Whiritoi

3. Nga Taiatea Wharekura

4. Te Wharekura o  Te Kaokaoroa o Patetere