Waitangi challenge starts early for pupils

18:49, Jan 29 2013
MArcia Johnson
MAU RAKAU: Marcia Johnson, 17, will be honoured for her skill with the taiaha this weekend as part of Papakura Marae’s Waitangi Day celebrations.

The celebrations are starting early for this year's Waitangi Day in Papakura.

Around 50 students will be learning mau rakau - how to wield a taiaha - at a live-in wananga at Papakura Marae this weekend.

Led by tutors Pura Tangira and Timata Tapara, the gruelling weekend is even tougher for returning students who cannot eat during daylight hours.

Seventeen-year-old Marcia Johnson says that's part of the challenge.

"You don't go there for food," she says. "Your hunger is for knowledge."

The tutors have high expectations and many students fail or drop out. Even those who excel are sleep-deprived and covered in bruises by the end of the weekend.


"That's a sign that you're using it properly and hitting hard," Marcia says.

"Matua says those bruises are like a gift from the god of war."

The year 13 Rosehill College student and two others are being honoured this year for being top students in 2012.

Organiser Freda Potae, who runs Rosehill's kapa haka group, says the weekend teaches her students to respect taiaha.

"The kids in kapa haka think the taiaha is just a dance. But it's not meant to be flashy - it's considered a martial art. It's proper combat. They can get hurt if they don't know their stuff."

Students will perform for parents and the community at a ceremony on Sunday and receive their results.

Sponsorship from Auckland Council, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the Ngati Tamaoho Trust means the weekend is free, including meals, and all are welcome. It starts with a powhiri at 6pm on Friday at Papakura Marae, 29 Hunua Rd.

To register for the live-in call Freda Potae on 296 3137, email f.potae@rosehill-college.co.nz or turn up early on Friday night.

Papakura Courier