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Te Tāirawhiti Kapa Haka Festival Celebrates 72 Years

The Tamararo Festival is a 72-year-old tradition that will be showcasing the best of kapa haka in the East Coast area of Te Tāirawhiti in Gisborne this weekend, with up to six teams set to represent the region and qualify for Te Matatini 2025.

Tamararo is the country’s longest-running regional kapa haka competition, which was started in 1952 as a fundraising event for the Māori Anglican church across the East Coast.

Te Matatini Te Tāirawhiti delegate, Maui Tangohau, says the cultural institution has helped lift morale and promote the love of kapa haka in the region for many years. The event has continued consecutively despite setbacks, like Covid-19 and the most recent Cyclone Gabrielle.

“Kapa haka is in our blood and our whānau want to express themselves and their art on the stage,” he says.

Many groups and marae across the region were devastated by Cyclone Gabrielle in 2023. Despite the continued challenges, the annual festival will be hosting 23 groups, including former Te Matatini champions Waihirere and Whāngārā Mai Tawhiti. Maui says many of the groups are likely to share their inspirational stories of survival and resilience in some of their items.

“Many of us have been heavily impacted by flooding, loss of whenua, damage to homes but we have been slowly rebuilding. Kapa haka has given us purpose and has lifted the spirits of our people.”

Renowned composers Tuini Ngāwai and Ngoi Pēwhairangi, the composer of Poi E, hail from the region and Maui expects many of their whānau to perform, continuing the strong tradition of kapa haka in Te Tāirawhiti.

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“Our kuia have composed some of the most memorable toe tapping songs that are sung and loved by our people. I’m looking forward to seeing the legacy of Tuini and Ngoi being displayed on the stage this weekend.”

From February to May, hundreds of teams from 13 regions in New Zealand and Australia will compete in their respective regional qualifiers to vie for a spot at Te Matatini in New Plymouth, Taranaki in 2025.

Tamararo will be held at Houhoupiko, Gisborne on 6th-7th April 2024.

© Scoop Media

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