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Wellington kapa haka group off to China

17 October 2008
Wellington kapa haka group off to China
A group of Wellington kapa haka performers led by renowned violinist Elena are taking their distinctive mix of music and dance to the Nanning International Folk Song Arts Festival in China, before going on to play in Wellington's sister city, Xiamen.
The group, supported by the Xiamen Municipal Government, the Wellington Xiamen Association and the City Council, were chosen to go to Nanning on the recommendation of the Chinese embassy in Wellington. 
Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer says the group will appear at the Nanning Festival next week with artists from 57 different ethnic minorities in China, as well as 26 groups from other countries.
“This festival is a celebration of the traditional culture of the Zhuang people, an ethic minority group in the Guangxi Zhuang region of South China, along with other Chinese minority groups and people from around the world.
“Elena’s group will take the colours and sounds of New Zealand to audiences in our sister city Xiamen and, as well as public performances, there’ll be plenty of opportunities for the group to share cultural experiences with local performers and students,” says Cr Ahipene-Mercer.
Elena says she is proud to lead a cultural delegation representing Wellington to her sister city in China. 
“I’m delighted at the chance to visit and play in China again. I’m also looking forward to learning from local musicians and performers – it will be an amazing cultural experience.”
In November 2006, Elena and her cultural symphony played at the Shanghai International Arts Festival, giving local Chinese audiences an insight into New Zealand and Maori culture. Her three appearances at the festival were rapturously received. Elena is a member of the Vector Wellington Orchestra and regularly performs to public, corporate, school and community audiences.
The Poutama kapa haka performers – Tia Kirk, Roimata Timutimu, Hemi Ruru and Howard McGuire – are part of a larger troupe that competes in competitions and performs around New Zealand. 
Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast visited Xiamen in August. The city’s governors committed to providing support and materials for a Chinese garden to be built in Frank Kitts Park next year.
The Mayors of Wellington and Xiamen signed a sister city agreement in 1987, and last year they celebrated the 20th anniversary of this relationship. Both cities continue to cooperate on civic visits, education exchanges, arts and cultural events and the promotion of tourism and trade.
“We’re very pleased to be able to help Elena extend her tour to Xiamen,” says Wellington Xiamen Association Chair David Tai.  “Cultural exchanges like this really strengthen the links between New Zealand and China.” 
The Association has provided funding for the visit and Wellington City Council has provided administrative and logistical support. Chris Parkin from Wellington’s Museum Hotel has also supported the group by providing a large rehearsal space. Chris Lipscombe at Ground Zero coordinated the visit.

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