Kapa haka contest stands test of time

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 12:53 26/10/2012
Kapa Haka group
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ

Xavier Thompson and Riley Tipu, from St Joseph’s School, prepare for today’s Nga Putangitangi Festival, now in its 20th year, to be held at the Civic Theatre.

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It's a Wednesday morning at the St Joseph's School hall, and a new, thundering te reo Maori rendition of Prince's When Doves Cry is sung with passion by the kapa haka group, in preparation for competitions at the Civic Theatre.

The Nga Putangitangi kapa haka event - which involves 23 groups from 17 schools around the region - has been an annual competition for 20 years, thanks to forward-thinking teachers and parents at the school who wanted to increase awareness of the Maori culture in Murihiku/Southland.

Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Trust committee chair Leoma Tawaroa, who stood on the sidelines as the group rehearsed to the strumming of a tutor's guitar behind them, said the enthusiasm and dedication that came from the pupils - years 1 to 8 - was rewarding to see.

It was that "fun aspect" that the first tutors had wanted to encourage, while promoting a positive cultural identity.

About a year of planning went into each performance, and most of the tutors who patiently walked the children through their performances volunteered their time, Mrs Tawaroa said. Some of the tutors even wrote the music the pupils will perform to today.

Last year the event had attracted about 1500 people to the theatre, she said.

"It's one of the major Maori events that happens annually - a lot of hard work has gone into this."

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- The Southland Times

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