Tauranga Māori elders to perform in Wellington

Kuia Whetukioterangi Te Arihi, Rangi Oliver and Kura Benton join fellow members of Nga Taipakeke o Tauranga Moana to practice their waiata-ā-ringa or action songs for the Taikura Kapa Haka event in Wellington this weekend.

A group of Māori elders from the three iwi of Tauranga Moana – Ngati Ranginui, Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Pukenga are off to Wellington this week to take part in a kapa haka event to celebrate Matariki, the Māori New Year.

The Nga Taipakeke o Tauranga Moana kapa haka roopu, ranging in age from their early 60s to their late 80s, have been meeting on local marae twice a week since March to practice for Taikura Kapa Haka 2019.

Nga Taipakeke o Tauranga Moana performed at the event for the first time last year and is taking a larger group of 47 his year, boosted by sponsorship from the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation.

WBOP PHO Manager Māori Health Kiri Peita says the involvement of the kaumatua in kapa haka offers a holistic benefit that epitomises health for Māori and is aligned with the aim of the primary health organisation to improve health outcomes for Māori.

“They are becoming fitter and building strength and resilience. And the joy it brings to them is going to permeate to lots of Māori. Whanau will enjoy watching the livestream of the performance and recognising the waiata.”

Roopu member Whetukioterangi Te Arihi says the group will perform on stage for 20 minutes, including haka and poi. They have chosen to perform waiata from their era, composed by their own whānau, hapu and iwi.

“They are celebration waiata that give us a lot of our history from our mothers and grandmothers and connects us back to them.”

The practices usually run for two hours, which is a long time for them to be on their feet, but Whetukioterangi has seen great improvement in their health over the past few months.

“In the beginning we’d race to sit down for a break but now we get by with just a two-minute break.

“In terms of hauora, the scales and breathing exercises expand our lung capacity, and all parts of the body are moving, including our eyes, which have to follow our hands. You have to listen to get the tunes right and memorise the words and actions because some of us don’t know the waiata or have to re-learn them. It sharpens you up; it’s brain gym.”

The Nga Taipakeke o Tauranga Moana kapa haka roopu are off to Wellington this weekend to compete in Taikura Kapa Haka 2019 as part of Matariki celebrations.

As well as being physically active, the whanaunatanga, or social aspect of belonging to the group is important.

“I enjoy being with my mates in a world we know,” says Whetukioterangi.

“We have a connection and know each other’s likes and dislikes. There is a real positiveness; there’s no time to be down when we’re together. We’re responsible for ourselves and busy trying to get better at what we’re doing.”

She says many of the local kuia/koroua take part in other exercise programmes but often there is little motivation to stay involved long-term.

“Being involved in this takes us back to who we are. It is our exercise, but not in a prescribed way.”

Whetukioterangi says younger whānau see how much enjoyment their elders are getting from being involved and can’t wait for their turn.

 “Getting older looks positive for them. They can see there is a life after work and children. And our mokopuna get really excited because Nan can do kapa haka like them.”

Taikura Kapa Haka 2019 will be livestreamed via the Te Papa website.

Nga Taipakeke o Tauranga Moana will be performing at 12pm on Saturday, June 22 and again at 2pm on Sunday, June 23.

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