Longest reigning Te Matatini champions got vaccinated

By Marena Mane

A tutor and member of the defending champion Te Matatini rōpū, Ngā Tūmanako, Kawariki Morgan, says that having the rōpū completely vaccinated was vital to him and his sister Reikura, co-tutor of Ngā Tūmanako.

“As a kapa haka, as whānau, we have kids at our practice, we have our elders come to our practices, so we really saw the importance of protecting everyone,” he says.

Due to the pandemic, the popular kapa haka festival, Te Matatini, Herenga Waka, Herenga Tangata, has been postponed for the second time.

The organisers have prepared for a variety of eventualities, including delays and cancellations.

At the end of this month, a decision will be taken on which strategy will be pursued.

Morgan thinks that everyone attending large-scale events like Te Matatini and Rhythm and Vines should be vaccinated, as the Prime Minister has mandated.

“I think it's inevitable, and I think it's important. It signals how urgent it is for everyone, not just Māori, but I suppose Māori because we are lagging behind on the uptake of the vaccine but everyone needs to get vaccinated.”

A vaccinated rōpū

Morgan says he advised his kaihaka (performers) to get vaccinated before flying to Rarotonga to perform at the Te Maeva Nui Cook Island cultural festival held in August 2021, and he says, "It was a pretty clear cut decision," because Rarotonga is a Covid-free country, and they wanted to keep themselves and the tangata whenua of Rarotonga safe.

“It was 'if you want to come, get vaccinated. If you don't want to get vaccinated, well you have to stay in Aotearoa.' So that was probably the carrot that got a lot of them across the line but it worked.”

Morgan says one of the drawbacks of a virtual Matatini is capturing the audience's energy to boost a performance, and as kaihaka, they must be prepared for it.

“The real difficult thing, if these lockdowns and restrictions still continue, is being able to practice in a rōpū which you can't do really in zoom so we're hoping we get down to a level where we can all practise together.”