National | Haka Theatre

Autaia: NCEA-credited haka theatre opens career pathway for rangatahi

Pupils from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kōtuku rehearsing for Autaia. Photo / Supplied

A blend of traditional Māori performing arts and contemporary theatre is opening a future career pathway for Māori pupils across the Auckland region.

Māori theatre company Hawaiki TŪ, Auckland Live and a crew of leading Māori performing arts experts collaborated to support the secondary school NCEA-accredited course.

The year-long course culminates this week with Autaia, a production event that will showcase original haka theatre performances from eight kura kaupapa Māori schools and about 300 students.

The event will celebrate the richness and diversity of tapere Māori (Māori theatre) while earning the students valuable NCEA credits.

Hawaiki TŪ founder and lead producer of Autaia, Kura Te Ua, says finding a point of difference in themes for each group was a challenge. They will tackle topics including taiao Māori, te reo Māori, Te Tiriti, mana motuhake and the effects of Covid-19 on Māori.

Haka theatre takes centre stage.

"One of my jobs is to find the students different angles within those to focus on," she says.

Last year's inaugural Autaia event was a big success and featured only three groups: Ngā Puna o Waiōrea, at Western Springs College; Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi, in Glen Eden; and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kōtuku, in Ranui.

This year, five more schools will perform: Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Tapuwae, Auckland Girls' Grammar, Westlake Boys' High, Manurewa High School and Rutherford College.

Te Ua says the schools met in May at the peak of the Omicron wave for two pukenga wānanga (skills workshops). Māori playwrights and creative teams were assigned three schools each, weaving together self-directed kaupapa.

"I take my hat off to these students who've been through a hard and fast year, some off the back of Ngā Kapa Haka Kura Tuarua (Secondary schools' kapa haka nationals) and straight back into this mahi."

However, this is a world most kapa haka performers are familiar with, she says.

"My heroes throughout this campaign are our kaiako (teachers) and the time and care they've given to these rangatahi, where we've witnessed their growth and development flourish."

The show is at the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre, on Thursday, September 29.

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