National | Performing Arts

Taikura Kapa Haka: Living legends return to stage at Te Papa

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Te Puru o Tāmaki, Taikura Kapa Haka 2018, Te Papa.

More than 750 kaihaka (performers) will take to the stage for Taikura Kapa Haka this weekend, an annual festival celebrating and showcasing kapa haka and kaumātua.

The event promises to be a spectacular display of Māori culture, with participants hailing from as far North as Ngāti Wai and as far South as Ngāi Tahu/Waitaha.

Some 24 regional and marae-based rōpū, all performers over the age of 55, will deliver 15-minute routines featuring poi, haka, and waiata.

For those in Pōneke (Wellington), the invitation from organisers was clear in a statement this afternoon: “Nau mai, haere mai, tautoko mai! – come, enjoy, celebrate!”

The event will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, with thousands expected to watch.

A highlight of the festival is the participation of Bill Nathan, who has performed at every Taikura event since its inception in 2005 as part of Te Matatini in Palmerston North.

“We can put our own mortality aside and just enjoy the moment. It’s not something we should leave to the young people; just because we need to sit down after five minutes doesn’t mean we can’t participate in a way that we enjoy,” Nathan said.

The term “taikura” refers to the aged rings at the heart of the tōtara tree, symbolising kaumātua as the heart and soul of the people.

“Taikura and kapa haka offer us old ones other benefits,” Nathan says. “It’s a recreational activity that is good for us as we get older in terms of physical activity.”

The festival’s timing aligns with the Maramataka (Māori lunisolar environmental calendar), specifically during Matariki, a period for togetherness, health and honoring te whare tapere (community houses of storytelling and performance).

Since its beginnings in Kahungunu 17 years ago, and its integration into Te Papa’s Matariki celebrations in 2008, Taikura has grown in significance.

Te Papa kaihautū / Māori co-leader Dr Arapata Hakiwai highlights the festival’s importance, noting, “Taikura embodies the Matariki values of noho tahi (coming together), kotahitanga (unity), whakanui (celebration), tohatohatanga (sharing), and whanaungatanga (kinship) that Te Papa holds dear.

“This year we’re honoured to host the Kiingitanga and, most especially, the new patron of Taikura, Makau Ariki Te Atawhai.”

He Kura Te Tangata Trust chair Turongo Paki emphasises the festival’s growth and the opportunity it provides for kaumātua.

“Taikura continues to grow and is a special event providing a significant opportunity for our kaumātua to come together to learn and perform in a non-competitive environment through wānanga, performance, and archival research.

“Equally important, it’s an occasion to whakamana our kuia and koroua and the rich mātauranga they bring to the stage.”