National | Kapa haka

95-year-old takes the stage in Te Arawa

95-year-old old, Te Iwaiwa Te Amohau (centre), is the oldest performer at the Te Arawa competition.  Photo/File

Ten teams, mostly pākeke, from various iwi throughout Te Arawa opened the competition on Friday.

Ninety-five year old, Te Iwaiwa Te Amohau, is the oldest performer at the competition.

She recalls her early days of kapa haka in Wellington during the end of World War II.

"I was 14 years old when I went to work in order to provide for my family. I travelled to Ngāti Pōneke during the war. Once the war ended, I came home."

Te Amohau has since performed for Ngāti Whakaue on and off but says it was never about competition in her day.

"We didn't win in our time. But Ngāti Whakaue will always come to support."

Although she has transitioned from standing to sitting on stage, Te Amohau did not hold back when questioned about her thoughts on the evolution of kapa haka within Te Arawa. 

"I don't like it. The women used to learn the words to the haka but we'd stand behind the men, never to the fore like a man. The haka should be left to the men. Nowadays, you can't tell whether they're female or male."

Ten kapa will take the stage on Saturday as they compete for one of six qualifying spots for next year's Te Matatini festival to be held in Auckland.

Reigning champions, Te Mātārae i Ōrehu, will be looking to take home top honours for the fourth consecutive year, while newcomers Te Hekenga a Rangi will make their debut.