Learning new poi each day in lockdown

By Taroi Black

Ihaka Whanarere Tauri was only a baby when he picked up the poi and has never let it go ever since. Now at 11 years old, he has set up a personal challenge on social media.

Mastering the art form of this traditional dance made even more sense to Ihaka after featuring in the Aotea Haka Ngahau (non-competitive) before lockdown.

He appeared out of nowhere in his mother’s group, Te Reanga Mōrehu o Rātana, where he captured the audience’s attention, swinging four poi in the motion of a butterfly with the crowd cheering him on. That was his defining moment.

Despite these trying times, Tauri found something for online users to do through one poi a day he chooses from kapa throughout Aotearoa. He records his performances uploads to his mother’s page, Ahungarangi Whanarere.

In a matter of three days he’s attracted over 30,000 viewers, “just smashing it," he says. 

"It's a challenge for me - as I don't have any work to do during this lockdown."

While poi is usually performed by women, this year more boys and men have showcased their skills throughout the country. Tauri says his objective through social media is to encourage more boys his age to try the poi. After all, poi did originate from men, poi experts claim.  

“I get excited about difficult and easy poi, learning from children, rangatahi to kaumātua," he says.

Ahungarangi taught her son after noticing him swinging poi in her haka practice at six months old.   

“I think it's just a waste if you sit behind the camera. I want to get in touch with the world about his great poi skills,” she says.