Kapa haka on the rise - 2018 highlights

By Regan Paranihi

Kapa haka plays a key role in Māori culture and in 2018 standards have risen to another level.

Kōhanga reo from all over the country took part in their very own regional kapa haka festival called Te Mokotini, a concept that was established six years ago and takes its name from the world’s largest kapa haka festival, Te Matatini.

Rāhera Shepherd from Te Kōhanga Reo o Hineteiwaiwa said, "From the time our children, toddlers, and babies start at kōhanga reo they learn about our Māori knowledge and relational ties, the language and customs."

This year saw forty-three secondary schools from all over New Zealand gather in Palmerston North for the biannual national kapa haka competition, He Pouwhenua He Puapua.

For the first time in kapa haka history a group of rangatahi Māori who are aspiring media specialists were given the opportunity to broadcast the week-long event on social media platforms to cater for those who could not be at the event.

Wipere Takitimu said, "I quote Tā Apirana Ngata 'Utilise the tools of the Pākehā'.  He was right- examples of this are Facebook and other media.  It's convenient, everyone has phones and computers.  We as youth think that it's an easy way to see what's happening for youth, for the future leaders."

Distinguished kapa haka groups Waka Huia and Waihirere held a special performance as part of the Matariki festival to mark 125 years of women's suffrage in New Zealand at Te Taumata Kapa Haka - Wahine Toa, held at the ASB Waterfront Theatre in Auckland.

The groups took to the stage to celebrate the strength and power of women through kapa haka. 

Joe Pihema (Ngāti Whātua) from Te Waka Huia said, “For the whole world to see [the wāhine], 'here I stand as a Māori woman', so that's an important role for the men within kapa haka is to support our women so they can stand proud and noble."

One of Te Tai Tokerau’s top kapa haka groups collaborated with Universal Music Group and internet sensation, William Waiirua, to recreate Queen’s famous song, Bohemian Rhapsody, in te reo Māori.

While some didn’t agree with the language change, most of the feedback was positive and the video was a major hit online.

Hātea tutor Pauline Hopa said, “I have always loved the song Bohemian Rhapsody.  But never in my life did I think that we would be part of something this big.”

Last Wednesday, 5 December, 300 performers with intellectual disabilities from around the country took to the stage at the inaugural Te Anga Pāua o Aotearoa Kapa Haka Festival in Hamilton.

Te Waka Toka o Heretaunga tutor, Jake Moanaroa said, “The festival is a chance for performers to experience te ao Māori, to show everyone that our tāngata whaiora can do big waiata like this and they can come up here and perform.”


The final highlight for 2018 was when the Game of Thrones star, Jason Momoa, led a haka at the premiere of his new movie Aquaman.

'Tangaroa Ararau' was specially composed for the DC Comic by Ruatahuna haka leader Shannon Borell (Tūhoe) to signify the essence of the film's storyline.

The haka echoed through the hills of Hollywood and has been shared multiple times online.

Aquaman is one of DC Comics' newest films and follows the superhero's story as he is caught between a surface world that ravages the sea and the underwater Atlanteans who are ready to revolt. 

The film will screen in cinemas across Aotearoa on Boxing Day