Te Huinga Whetū Kapa Haka Regionals


Congratulations to Ethan Pemberton who was awarded Kaitātaki Tāne (top male leader), and to all of Pūaha Te Tai who gave their all in the midst of multiple disruptions, and placed second in almost every category.

On Friday 16 September, Pūaha Te Tai spent the day at the Trafalgar Centre, competing at the Te Huinga Whetū Kapa Haka Regionals and watching the performances brought by other schools and Kapa Haka groups from across Te Tau Ihu. 

Once again Pūaha Te Tai brought an incredible bracket of items, showing real depth in heart, passion and identity as a rōpu. Given the nature of this year and all the disruption, getting a bracket together worthy of the occasion was a feat. They placed 2nd in almost every category to worthy winners Te Aho Rau (Nelson College for Boys’ and Nelson Girls College) who had returned from the National competition a week prior.

Image by: Melissa Banks

Ethan Pemberton was awarded the prestigious taonga for Kaitātaki Tāne (top male leader) for his performance, which is an admirable achievement that whānau and we as a school, are really proud of.

It’s not the first time Ethan has stepped up as male leader in performances, having grown up in Te Kura Kaupapa Māori since Year 1, but it was his first time for Nayland College. 

In talking with him about his award, Ethan said he wasn’t expecting it at all so thought “it was pretty cool.” 

This week I was able to talk with Taea, Lani and Ethan to find out more about their journey, the lead up to the event and how it was on the day. Xanthe Banks was also happy to contribute her thoughts but as she has challenged herself to only speak te Reo Māori presently, her answers were sent in via email.

Sarah: So tell me about the Kapa Haka Regionals, how was it?

Taea & Lani (in unison): “It was amazing!

Taea: “It’s like you spend the whole year preparing for that 20mins on stage and it just goes so fast. But it was great.”

Ethan: “Exciting. We woke up early and just the whole day the excitement is just like building. Being on stage is cool as. It’s just months of work and it all goes in like 20mins.”

Lani: “It was also really cool to see the other groups. There were heaps of really impressive primary groups and intermediate groups, so it was really cool to see the younger rangatahi performing.”

Image by: Melissa Banks

Sarah: Tell me about your bracket.

Lani: “We got quite a lot of time, but not heaps of time, to prepare our bracket, but I was proud of what we did.”

Taea: “I think the meaning behind a lot of [the items] made it that much more personal; reclaiming te Reo Māori and that Kapa Haka is therapy.”

Ethan: “One hundred percent of the time that you get up on stage, you’re trying to spread a message through your items, through your bracket. I think the main focus of our one was mental health and ‘te whare tapa wha.’ (The four cornerstones of Māori mental health).

Sarah: Tell me more about how Kapa Haka is therapy.

Lani: “It’s a safe space I think that we can express, in other ways that isn’t just traditional western ways of viewing therapy.”

Taea: “I think for me personally, since I haven’t had access to my culture for so long, it’s definitely been therapeutic just being in that space because it’s helping me to like reclaim back [my identity] and be empowered as Māori, so I think that is something that has really helped me. Just being immersed in that has really helped me. And making cool friends, like Lani.”

Xanthe: “It is a very inclusive space.”

Ethan: “Being a part of it keeps me connected with my culture, always having something to do with it and keeping my culture relevant to me.”

Image by: Melissa Banks

Sarah: Tell me about the different pieces that you did.

Lani: “So there are aggregate and non-aggregate items or categories. The aggregate items that are things that we have to have in our bracket to be able to qualify for the categories. Then there’s also non-aggregate things like our ‘Kākahu,’ which is our clothing, then there’s ‘Kaitātaki Tane’ and ‘Kaitātaki Wahine,’ so our male and female leaders, and our ‘Waiata Tira,’ which is our first opening choral piece.

Lani: “All the other pieces are compulsory. So you have the ‘Moteatea,’ which is the traditional chant like piece, [traditionally a lament], but there are also contemporary Moteatea, but they’re sung in that style.”

Taea: “You can do either a ‘Whakaeke’ which is like with a patu, or you can do with a rau, like with the leaves that they had. So you can choose either.”

Lani: “The order is the ‘Waiata Tira’ first, a ‘Whakaeke,’ then the ‘Moteatea,’ then a ‘Waiata a Ringa’ (an action song), then you have a ‘Poi’ and then sometimes you have a ‘Whaka Whiti Haka’ but it’s not counted, it’s a transition from Poi to Haka, and then you have a ‘Whaka Watea’ which is our closing item.”

Pūaha Te Tai 2022 — Image by: Melissa Banks

Lani: “The Whakaeke is kind of our opening statement piece, our whole mihi. Something that the judges noted as well was that it was cool how all of the iwi from Te Tau Ihu are getting quite a lot of recognition in the waiata and stuff.”

Taea: “Yeah throughout all of the brackets performed [by other groups].”

Lani: “Our Moteatea… talks about ‘Te Hekenga.’ It’s specifically talking about Ngāti Koata, but it’s the journey many iwi made from up north, coming from Kawhia all the way down and what they saw, the places they were, it’s pretty amazing.”

Sarah: So how did you feel being a part of it?

Lani: “Pretty amazing. It felt really cool. It’s my fourth year as part of the rōpū so it feels like it’s gone fast and it feels like we’ve made a lot of work back when I was in Year 9.”

Xanthe: “It’s always really exciting to stand on the stage. To be honest I thought that we could have done better this year, but that happens sometimes.”

Ethan: “I think we could have done better but we had had lots of new people join and so I think we did pretty good for what we had.”

Pūaha Te Tai with Lani Kalapu (front) — Image by: Melissa Banks

Sarah: Tell me about the preparation involved and the lead up.

Xanthe: “The training it takes to stand on the stage is a long and sometimes tiring campaign that involves many trainings per week and noho that last all weekend. And on the day, we end up waking up early and begin our getting ready prosses which involves putting on our kākahu, moko, makeup and warming up our voices.”

Ethan: “Heaps of stress and definitely heaps of hard work.” 

Taea: “Lots of noho!

Lani: “So many noho!”

Taea: “Lots of hard work but also just acknowledging our tutors who have put in so much work and invited us into their home and taken care of us as if we’re their children too. And all the kaiako here at Nayland.”

Taea Teiria — Image by: Melissa Banks

Lani: “There was heaps of support from so many teachers and of course our tutors. So it wasn’t just training and drilling through each item, there was a lot of whanaungatanga stuff so getting time to just get to know each other.

Taea: “Lots of people supported us and believed in us which was a really nice thing.”

Final comment from Xanthe: “Hine tū hine ora, hine noho hine mate.”

Now that the Kapa Haka Regionals are over, Pūaha Te Tai are booked in for a few more smaller performances in the community and for the school. The rōpu will also be taking time to debrief and to reflect over the year that has been and how much they’ve grown individually and together.

We wish them all a well deserved break over the holidays and look forward to seeing them on stage again at our upcoming prizegivings and awards ceremonies. 

Mia Shepard, Ethan Pemberton & Xanthe Banks — Image by: Melissa Banks

By Sarah Luton