Ōpōtiki mai Tawhiti utilises Zoom to get a head start for Nationals

By Tumamao Harawira
Photo Credit / Stuff

'You make do with what you have got.'

That is the mantra that Te Matatini powerhouse Ōpōtiki mai Tawhiti is employing in their preparations for Te Matatini 2022.

The team had their very first Zoom practice over the weekend, as a way of bringing them together while the country is in various lockdown levels, and according to one of the tutors of the group, it was unquestionably a new experience for them.

Thomas Mitai says that with all the uncertainty around Covid, including the conjecture around whether Te Matatini would even go ahead, the group decided to try online practices as a way of kick-starting the campaign leading up to nationals in Auckland.

"We, as a committee, looked at all the options in order for us to begin training for Te Matatini, and it was decided that we should have a look at practising online as an option for us, and Ōpōtiki mai Tawhiti ki runga ahumairangi was born. So this way, when it was time to actually come together for live-ins, we weren't behind the eight ball, we would have at least some preparation."

Thomas says although it is nice to have the technology to help with preparations, nothing beats training in the flesh.

"The difficulty with online training is you aren't able to really experience the person and how the wairua of that person is. You aren't afforded the full experience of a performer online. You can teach all the material online but you cannot see whether the person is learning all the material, or whether the material is being embedded into the soul of the person."

Lesser of two evils - No crowd or video performances

Te Matatini organisers have developed three backup plans, ranging from delays to cancellations in case Covid-19 affects Te Matatini Herenga Waka Herenga Tangata National Kapa Haka Festival 2022. They say they are seriously looking to the future and what that might mean for the festival. One of the options is holding a virtual Te Matatini Festival but they intend to explore other options as well.

But Thomas thinks that plan does not benefit the groups and believes that the better option would be to hold the competition without spectators, and only allow judges to be present.

'We have had experience dealing with this issue here in Mataatua and the thing is our customs were being compromised, so we decided that in order to properly uphold the mana of our kaupapa, we had only the groups and judges present."

Te Matatini plans to deal with the threat of Covid

Plan A - Prepare

Organisers say the festival will go ahead if the whole country is at alert level 1 on Friday, 29 October 2021. The decision date allows kapa haka teams enough time to prepare in the lead-up to the festival.

The health and safety team, who helped plan the operations for the America's Cup regatta in Tāmaki Makaurau in March 2021, will also lend their expertise to assist Te Matatini during this time.

All people who enter the stadium will be required to sign in, whether that be via the Covid tracer app or manual recording.

Everyone who buys a ticket through the only certified ticket vendor for the festival, Ticketmaster, will be required to provide their full name, valid email address and contact number to ensure swift contact tracing.

Plan B – Reduce

If on Friday, 29 October 2021, the whole country is at alert level 2 or higher, Te Matatini Festival will be postponed to April 2022 at Eden Park (Ngā Ana Wai) in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Te Matatini is working with its venue partners at Eden Park to confirm a date in April and will keep everyone updated as plans progress.

Plan C – Lockdown

If on Tuesday, 14 December 2021, the whole country is at alert level 2 or higher, Te Matatini Herenga Waka Herenga Tangata National Kapa Haka Festival 2022 will be cancelled for one year and moved out to February 2023.

It will remain at Eden Park. A new round of regional competitions will be held in 2022 to decide the new qualifying kapa haka teams for the festival in 2023 in Tāmaki Makaurau.