Kapa haka group shines at festival

JOANNE BENNETT
Last updated 05:00 20/09/2013
timaru kapa haka
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/Fairfax NZ

DISCIPLINE PAYS OFF: Representatives of the kapa haka group that took first place in the Flava Festival are, from back left, Deb Hales, teacher in charge of Kapa haka, Stevie-Lee Edwards, Chresta Martin, Meriana Senelale, Pikimai Ouknider, tutor. Front row from left, Adi Nausu, Poasa Seiuli and Vai Malama holding Ahmed Ouknider.

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Five years ago a small but committed group of Timaru Girls' High and Timaru Boys' High leaders formed a combined schools kapa haka group. This year a 40-strong group won the senior kapa haka prize at the annual Flava Festival cultural competition.

"School staff have seen them grow over those years, and have really noticed the pride that the students have in their performance now," said Deb Hales, the teacher in charge of kapa haka.

Boys' High Te Atukura teacher Matua (Smiley) Haua was fundamental in developing the group in its first years. Sadly he died from cancer last year, but his contribution is remembered in the group's name.

"Our group is called Nga Manukura, which sort of means leadership. It's in remembrance of Matua Smiley, but also refers to the seniors of the kapa haka who will eventually become leaders of some sort," tutor Pikimai Ouknider said.

Ouknider was asked to help the kapa haka two years ago, when student Patricia Hill discovered the experienced leader living next door. That was two weeks before the 2011 Flava Festival.

"I wanted to help them, so I did," Ouknider said.

As soon as she arrived at the first rehearsal, she started making changes and introducing rules.

"The seniors were at the back and the new ones at the front, which was really strange, so we switched them around. The eldest and most experienced people are usually at the front, with the future generations coming through from the back."

"I also got them to put their shoes neatly by the door."

Ouknider was born and raised with kapa haka in her life.

"I like to share the knowledge I've been given from older people. It guides me to do what I am with these young ones now."

Timaru Girls' year 13 student Stevie-Lee Edwards said the kapa haka feels like a "second family".

Chresta Martin agreed, saying she enjoyed the sense of belonging.

Discipline is key for the group, and it extends beyond practice and into school life.

"They need to show discipline in performance, their attitude, as well as coming to practice. If they don't they won't be allowed to come away on trips," Ms Hales said. The students agree they enjoy being disciplined, and knowing what is expected of them.

"It's a good place to be in, and it feels good when we work together," Chresta said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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