Learning to memorise moteatea lines and medical notes
Tāmaki Makaurau is set to host Te Matatini after three years of cancellations; three University of Auckland students share their thoughts ahead of the national competition.
For the past four years, Te Matatini has been sorely missed from the diets of kapa haka freaks and supporters nationwide. Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, has been given the pleasure to feed these appetites and is currently hosting the largest Māori performing at Ngā Ana Wai, Eden Park.
The Te Matatini festival was last held in Auckland 21 years ago, at Takaparawhau, Bastion Point. This years Tāmaki Herenga Waka, Herenga Tāngata festival will see three students battle head to head for the title of Toa Whakaihuwaaka, or supreme winner.
For many Māori kapa haka is an identity, it’s a continuation of tradition and is a direct link to tupuna and ancestors. For student performers kapa haka is a way of life. It means driving three hours to make weekend practices, it means memorising your lecture notes as well as your mōteatea lines, and it means sacrificing a party for practice.
Nikora Wade of Te Arawa descent and medical aspirations can attest to this, “It’s actually been a really tough journey. This is the first time I’ve done hakas with so many other commitments in my life. Although I love kapahaka and it is a huge part of my identity, it has had a significant impact on mahi, finances, and my studies—as Matatini week is also the day I start med school.”
Weighing up his options, the boy who grew up around Rotorua’s kapahaka tourism industry knew that Te Matatini was of his priorities. Choosing to perform alongside Te Hekenga a Rangi he is now coming into his third stand on the Te Matatini stage.
“If I’m being completely honest, a huge part of why I’ve tried balancing [kapahaka] is the fact that it’s been almost four years since the last Matatini. I’ve created a schedule that should keep my head above water. But overall, Matatini Herenga Waka, Herenga Tāngata is gonna be a banger of a Matatini!”
Hikawai Te Nahu, an arts and science student is set to perform for Ngāti Whakaue from his iwi of Te Arawa. Missing his tātua, belt, and piupiu for the last couple of years he expresses a great excitement to get back into the uniform. “It feels great! Pai kē atu! Kua roa nei te wā e noho māwehe ana mātou ko taku tātua, ko taku piupiu ano hoki!”
Another student excited to be back in pari and piu is Atamira Walker. Her first national stand will be alongside family in Te Whanau-a-Apanui. On coming back to to the uniform she speaks to the myriads of growth she has gone through since her regional stand in 2020,
“It’s been quite an overwhelming experience being back in the Apanui pari. I wore the uniform at Mataatua Regionals 2020, and so much has changed since then. I have lost whānau, been through lockdowns, and all sorts of changes! Wearing the pari this year now comes with a newfound purpose, and I’m both nervous and excited to represent my whānau and make them proud.”
As students who have lived in Auckland since the beginning of university, many of them have also taken on the role of host to incoming whānau members. They are particularly excited to share Dominion Road and the gems of Karangahape road to their arriving whānau.
Competition aside, the three performers are long time friends who have witnessed each other’s growth while at uni. In the words of Wade, “To all my whānau and metes performing, I cannot wait to see you all light up the stage with your presence. Do all the mahi you can so that the performance becomes second nature. [Because] that’s what it is all about, Māori expressing their passion and love for their ahurea, iwi, and most importantly, embodying their tupuna.”