The magic of Kaumātua Kapa Haka

Charles Ropitini shares his thoughts on New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka

The NZ Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka Festival is an annual favourite for many Wellingtonians and visitors to Wellington experiencing the magic of Matariki, our indigenous New Year festival. For me personally, it is my favourite weekend of the year.

As a child, I grew up on a block of land in Heretaunga-Hastings called Wairua, where waiata and music were a part of the whānau norm alongside the annual cycle of planting, maintaining and harvesting crops.  It was at Wairua that my cousins and I learned of the tradition of waiata and the importance of annunciating Māori lyrics when singing.  We also learned (somewhat romantically) the stories behind the waiata, why they were written and why they are important.

Every year these thoughts and memories flood to the forefront of my mind as I watch the Kaumātua performing.  The grace and elegance with which the older generation perform brings a tear to the eye as the songbirds of the past magically appear alongside the old people who look as young as ever, smiling and happy.

Performers at the 2014 New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka  © Te Papa

Performers at the 2014 New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka © Te Papa

This year’s festival is the most special yet, coinciding with the centenary of the 1st Māori Contingent Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū landing at Gallipoli.  Many of the waiata we know and love today were written during the turbulent years of the Great War and as Māori patriotism came to the fore, so to did the music, actions and lyrics that have become waiata-a-ringa.

However the stories have largely been untold.  The stories we grew up with and the style of waiata we were taught are far removed from the modern day interpretations of the WW1 repertoire book.  Luckily for us, the NZ Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka Festival breathes life back into these waiata, many to be performed in their original style, as the composers intended.

Bring your handkerchiefs, you’re sure to be touched by the magic of Kaumātua Kapa Haka.

By Charles Ropitini, New Zealand Post

Experience New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka

Join our celebration of haka and waiata performed by Kaumātua.
Sat 5 and Sun 6 July, from 10.30am, Te Papa.
NZ Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka – find out more

Can’t make it to Wellington? Watch the New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka thanks to our Media Partner Māori TV. Live online from 10.30am on Sat 5 and Sun 6 July.
Watch New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka live online

See a slideshow of joyful images from last year’s New Zealand Kaumātua Kapa Haka.
Slideshow – New Zealand Kaumātua Kapa Haka

Matariki Festival at Te Papa  │ Te Taiopenga o Matariki ki Te Papa

This year, Te Papa hosts a stellar programme of free events for all ages,  including the popular Poetry Slam, and Ngā Whetū o Matariki concert.
Matariki at Te Papa

There are many great exhibitions and events happening all over Wellington.
Full list of events and locations – Matariki Wellington


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