Kapa haka pros are trailblazers
Two teachers are leading the way for Maori performers with roles in a unique new haka theatre production.
Tomika Whiu and Fred Henare from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Rawhitiroa are the only two Northlanders performing in Arohanui – The Greatest Love.
The professional show is being performed in Wellington from October 6 and Auckland from October 13 as a showpiece of the Rugby World Cup festival.
Tomika plays a lead role and says the production is creating a new pathway for performers by combining theatre with kapa haka. The 30 cast were picked for their kapa haka skills from nationwide auditions, he says.
The focus on kapa haka experience, rather than acting experience, gives the performance its authenticity, he says.
"They want to ensure that kapa haka and tikanga Maori and all the aspects of the culture are delivered appropriately and with integrity," he says.
The producer, Te Matatini Society, also runs the national kapa haka championships.
Tomika has performed with Auckland senior kapa haka group Te Waka Huia for 20 years and says kapa haka is not something you learn overnight.
Fred first learnt kapa haka at what was then Raumanga Intermediate – now Manaia View School – and Whangarei Boys' High School. He is also part of Te Waka Huia.
Both have been around the world with kapa haka performances but Tomika says its great to be involved in a professional production.
"In kapa haka you have to pay petrol to go to rehearsals, we all chip in to pay for food, it's all voluntary.
"There are often huge sacrifices every weekend."
They are thankful to their kapa haka tutors from Te Waka Huia, Ngapo Wehi and his late wife Pimia, for getting them this far. Fred says kapa haka is really important for students at Rawhitiroa and making the kapa haka team is aspired to as much as making the 1st XV in other schools.
"It's just a part of who they are culturally. We're very fortunate that they can get unit standards and achievement standards through kapa haka now – it's not just a pastime."
Fred is the school's Maori performing arts tutor and is leading the school's intermediate kapa haka team Takawaenga, which has qualified for the national primary school kapa haka competition in Whangarei in November.