Online kapa haka challenge to remove barriers facing Māori and takatāpui

By Jessica Tyson

New Zealanders are invited to take part in an online social media event called Auaha Challenge 2021 - Irarere to raise awareness and educate communities on the art of kapa haka while removing stereotypical barriers that face Māori and takatāpui.

The New Zealand Mental Health Foundation partnered with Tangaroa Paul and Moana Edwardson of Mo+Co to create the event, in line with Pink Shirt Day.

“The fact that we are using kapa haka as the medium to draw our supporters out is really about maintaining and reclaiming our cultural identity and using Māori performing arts as that avenue to promote a stand against bullying,” Paul says.

He was fortunate to grow up doing kapa haka, he says.

“Poi was the element of kapa haka that was used by me to be able to express my femininity and masculinity in some cases but really it was just a vehicle that helped me feel free to express myself.”

The challenge will run from May 5 to 21 inviting people to upload a 15 to 30-second video of themselves performing a poi, haka or dance to the soundtrack E Raka e by singer Pere Wihongi. People should next post their video to any social media platform with the hashtag #AUAHACHALLENGE2021.

Paul says the challenge is all about being their authentic self, so people entering should choose to express themselves in a way that feels unique to them.

“If you feel like you need to, add in a bit more flair by dressing up in kapa haka uniform or just dressing up in any form of kakahu (clothing) that makes you feel more confident in performing, but it’s really how you portray yourself as a performing artist.”

He says the Mental Health Foundation offers services to help anyone experiencing bullying.  

“In terms of our rangatahi Māori there are services and organisations that dedicate their complete focuses toward taiohi Māori, rangatahi Māori," he says.

“But, if anything, it's more about trying to understand we all are different in some shape or form and bullying can be experienced in different shapes or forms as well. So hopefully by being open and vocal about standing up against any form of discrimination or bullying, that’s something that Māori have always fought for, so again we’re trying to push the boundaries jumping into spaces like this.”   

If you or someone you know needs support, free call or text 1737 for support from a trained counsellor. You can also contact Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or free text 4357 (HELP). You can contact Youthline as well on 0800 376 633 or free text 234.