Tūwharetoa fireknife dancer prepares for World Championships

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Iraia Bailey (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) is giving his taiaha a rest over the next couple of months, as he prepares to compete in the World Fireknife Championships later this year. Being a Samoan practice - only a handful of Māori are known to have learned the art, and for Bailey - it has helped him to gain a greater appreciation for Pacific cultures. 

Nowadays, you can see the 38-year-old practising outside of his home in Laie, Hawaii - being watched by a rather large group of neighbourhood kids, six of them being his own. 

“Siva Afi is about a person being able to skillfully use his hands, and every muscle of his hands to control his weapon."

"Next week I will work on my diet, reducing my intake to trim down and for my abs to reappear," Bailey says. 

Our reporter Mare Haimona-Riki witnessed a typical practice last night. Source / File

What originally started as a curiosity, for the then 28 year old Bailey has since taken him around the world. Fire Dancing took Bailey to Hong Kong Disneyland, where he whirled his fireknife as part of the Lion King show.

Bailey demonstrated this skill on the kapa haka stage at the 2018 Te Arawa Regionals. In the video below, Bailey can be seen wielding his naifi ‘afi (fireknife) at the whakaeke of his kapa, Te Ahi Tipua o Tūwharetoa.

"The purpose of that was to demonstrate the fires, used by our ancestor Ngatoroirangi, on Te Arawa waka," he says.

Te Ahi Tipua o Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa Regionals 2018. Source. Facebook 

Bailey encourages more Māori to make an effort in learning other pacific cultures:

We are all one so we should celebrate each other's cultural dances, our taonga - all of our gifts across the Pacific.

The World Fireknife Championship kicks off on May 6th.