National | Kapa haka

Te Whare Tapere o Te Arawa presents Whetūrangihia

A  theatre, drama, kapa haka and musical-infused performance called Whetūrangihia has taken off in Rotorua this week to celebrate Matariki.

This is a first for Te Whare Tapere o Te Arawa, which has crafted a performance based on Matariki with Whetūrangihia presented by young performers.

"It gives our youth of Te Arawa an opportunity to showcase their culture through performing arts, dance, singing, and kapa haka," the supporting performer from Te Whare Tapere o Te Arawa, Te Rerewa said.  "And from this, Whetūrangihia is born."

Twenty-five students from six Rotorua schools have been performing in the show in which two lead characters, Ururangi and Stella, work together to find solutions to overcome grief.

“We know that through grief comes understanding and healing and in this performance, the understanding and healing comes from Matariki,” Koopu said.

Matahiapo Maxwell from Te Wharekura o Ngāti Rongomai and of Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāi Tai, and Moloka’i Nui a Hina, plays Stella, a close friend of Ururangi.

She tries to help him and his family through the loss of a loved one.

“What I love about this production is meeting other like-minded rangatahi who love the performing arts,” Maxwell said.

Wayne Boynton-Rata from Raukura Rotorua Boys High School and of Ngāi Tūhoe plays Ururangi and, although a novice at kapa haka, this production has enriched his experiences with haka and waiata and he is keen to get more involved in haka in the future.

"Maybe this is my Matariki future plan, moving from the past into my new future and learning haka. Like my character Ururangi, I thank Matariki for showing this to me,” Boynton-Rata said.

Te Whare Tapere o Te Arawa has been sharing the stories of Te Arawa through performing arts since 2019, and one of its founders, Maiau Houltham, with her colleagues, was putting the young talented performers through their paces before the week’s extravaganza performances held at the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre in Rotorua.

“Te Whare Tapere o Te Arawa was established to be a house of storytelling for Te Arawa by Te Arawa,” Matiu Hamuera of Te Whare Tapere o Te Arawa said.

The group hopes through Whetūrangihia the audience will not only be excited and moved by the performers and this production but also develop an understanding that the many challenges in this world including those faced this year can be overcome by the welcoming of this Matariki., a new year to plan and look forward to what is to come.

“This is offered to every person today including the two main characters in this production to overcome grief,” Koopu said.

Te Whare Tapere o Te Arawa wants to build up the theatre performing arts in Rotorua and not just leave it up to youth. It wants to bring together Te Arawa Te Matatini kapahaka adult groups or individual haka performers or even seasoned theatre performers and create more new spectacular and vibrant performances.