Regional | Puanga

Taranaki Puanga Festival: ‘creating a Taranaki narrative that connects uri to the maunga’

The 19th annual Taranaki Puanga Festival kicks off tomorrow in Waitara with a record 55 performance groups.

The event started in 2004 aiming to create a Taranaki narrative that connects uri to the maunga, that draws uri from all over the country back to their turangawaewae. It was meant to be an event where they could connect as a whole iwi every year through kapahaka.

Event spokesperson Raymond Kaiki reflects on the event’s first year, “Way back then, they would open at about 10 o’clock and by midday they were finished. So, the competition went from talking and creating Taranaki narratives to our understanding of who we were and our relationship to the maunga, to the various iwi and awa in the district at the time.”

This year’s event will be hosted at the Waitara War Memorial Hall, in north Taranaki. In its first year there was only three performance groups but this year there are 55, with many local primary and secondary school groups, and also senior and club teams supporting the event.

”It is the spirit of seeing all the generations coming together and performing together under the same roof every year, doing the same cultural performances,” Kaiki says.

And what it does is it synergises us closer together. It brings us the ability to be able to sit and learn from each other, understand each other.”

The sharing of knowledge pertaining to Puanga is of great importance to all the people of Taranaki.

“This is one of the greatest opportunities that we have seen, that’s come through, being able to critique each year what we share with Puanga and one is the understanding of the relationship here at Te Tai Hauauru, here in Taranaki, our relationship to the whetu Puanga. The kōrero around Puanga being the leading star that leads the Matariki around and continues to keep that whole flow of those constellations of stars returning every year.”

Kaiki says kapahaka gives an opportunity to nurture their unique Taranakitanga and develop their customs and unique style of performance among their own.

“The mita of Taranaki is also encouraged at the Puanga Day, where we’re all reviving the Taranaki mita of pronunciation of kupu, Māori kupu, that we say here in Taranaki. And finally, what it also generates, it generates a community wellness where we all get together and everybody can be included, from kōhanga right the way up to taikura,” Kaiki says.

Kaiki says knowing they are hosting Te Matatini ki Te Kāhui Maunga in 2025 has brought much excitement to the people of Taranaki.

“I’m really excited because it allows us to be able to manāki the people, manāki this kaupapa which is bigger than all of us. Matatini is bigger than all of us and it has a lot of legacy behind it. And I think that it’s really a good opportunity for us to come together, to be able to strengthen our ability to be able to manāki.”

Te Matatini ki Te Kāhui Maunga 2025 will be hosted at New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park.