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Top kapa haka teams prepare for biennial competition

New Zealand’s top kapa haka teams prepare for biennial competition

In a little over two months’ time, the sound of haka and waiata will emanate from the Rotorua International Stadium as 41 of the country’s best performing kapa haka groups compete for the national title. Held every two years, the Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival attracts performers and teams from all over New Zealand, and even Australia, as well as an audience of around 30,000 to witness Maori performing arts at its best.

The National Kapa Haka Festival is a significant event in New Zealand’s cultural calendar and Te Matatini 2013 is promising to live up to that reputation. The event is recognised as the world’s largest celebration of Maori traditional performing arts, which has grown in popularity in the last 10 years, says the executive director of Te Matatini Society, Darrin Apanui.

“As a competitive art form, kapa haka has grown at a local, regional and a national level in the last four decades,” he says. “The regional heats themselves are very competitive as teams desire to gain entry to our biennial festival, and that obviously spills over when these groups make it to the national stage.”

Mr Apanui says this natural competition leads to a vibrancy and richness in the quality of kapa haka at the Te Matatini Festival, which is smoke-free and alcohol-free and provides a family/whanau friendly atmosphere. Next year marks the 40th year of the competition.

“Te Matatini has worked over the years to make this cultural event a relaxed, family atmosphere,” Mr Apanui says.

While the performances on stage will be entirely in te reo Maori an onsite translation service – Hakarongomai – will provide Maori to English translation via a readily available FM frequency, which opens up the festival to all cultures, not only a Maori-speaking audience. Mr Apanui says that while it’s not a literal translation service it is informative and conversational, explaining the meanings of Maori words and waiata, tribal dialects and customs through to the interesting histories of teams.

Alongside the on stage competition, local craftspeople, stallholders and food retailers will provide a variety of food, arts and crafts for sale.

Te Matatini is an incorporated society charged with maintaining the Maori cultural foundations of te reo (language) and tikanga (customs) that are an essential part of Maori performing arts and kapa haka. The first Aotearoa Traditional Maori Performing Arts Society competition was held in Rotorua in 1973. The 2013 festival provides an opportunity for a celebration of the development, rejuvenation and growth in kapa haka over 40 years, Mr Apanui says, adding that sponsorship from a variety of public and private organisations has been essential in ensuring that kapa haka is showcased every two years at this national event.

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