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Joining or supporting a kapa haka team is great for tamariki and something for the whole whānau to enjoy.

Kapa haka is Māori performing arts presented by a group. Haka, waiata ā ringa, poi and taiaha may all be part of a group’s repertoire. Joining or supporting a kapa haka team is good for the whole whānau, even pēpi.

Kapa haka and national pride

New Zealanders see haka performed at public events. The performers and the audience feel a sense of pride in who they are and their connection with the haka. When the All Blacks perform a haka before kick-off, the pride is visible – both in the players and in the crowd.

History of kapa haka

Māori legend tells us that the sun god Rā had two wives: Hine Raumati, who was the maiden of summer, and Hine Takurua, the maiden of winter. Rā and Hine Raumati had a son called Tane rore who became the god of haka and performing arts.

During the 19th century, missionaries tried to stop the use of haka and encouraged Māori to sing hymns and European songs instead. So it’s amazing that today, New Zealand haka, especially ‘Ka mate’, is known all over the world.

The many faces of kapa haka

Te Matatini, our national kapa haka festival, is a significant cultural event for Māori performing arts in Aotearoa. The name Te Matatini was given by Professor Wharehuia Milroy and refers to the ‘many faces’ who bring kapa haka to life. They’re individuals, whānau, hapū and iwi. They’re young and old. Some are performers, some tutors and some are composers. Many are volunteers, organisers, trainers and cooks – all supporting as the kapa haka whānau, inspiring participation and the continuation of Māori performing arts across Aotearoa.

In homes, on marae, in schools and communities, and at regional, national and international events, kapa haka is growing and developing. There are also two national qualifications in kapa haka approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority – the National Certificate in Māori Performing Arts (Performance) and the National Diploma in Māori Performing Arts (Tutoring).

A fun way for kids to learn

You don’t need a qualification to do kapa haka. Whānau can learn a haka with their pēpi, and it can be surprising what tamariki have already picked up. Even quite small children can enjoy joining in a haka – they may copy what they see on television or at a kapa haka performance.

They’ll learn to sing, copy movements, keep a beat, use te reo Māori and listen to others – and it’s a great workout for their brain and body. Haka can also help with coordination, rhythm, counting, being part of a group, following instructions and pure enjoyment.

Something for everyone

The literal meaning of kapa haka comes from ‘kapa’, to form a line, and ‘haka’, to dance. However, modern kapa haka groups often include a wide variety of carefully choreographed performances that involve waiata, dance and a variety of instruments and other performance items. They may include:

  • waiata-ā-ringa – action songs
  • pou or mōteatea – traditional singing
  • waiata tira – choral pieces
  • poi – songs using poi in a variety of ways
  • tītī tōrea – synchronised manipulation of sticks
  • musical instruments – guitar, pūtaratara (conch shell), kōauau, pūtōrino (wind instruments)
  • the beats of poi, rākau and takahia (stamping).

Other resources

Haka News | Māori Television(external link)

Kapa haka — Māori performing arts | Te Ara(external link)

Video: Worlds Cutest Haka! By the Ngati Toa Three Year Olds | Kemp Reweti (YouTube(external link))

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