Walk a mile in my blue suede puma shoes

Walk a mile in my blue suede puma shoes

Matariki at Te Papa offers up a smorgasbord of events and as a photographer at Te Papa it is a busy time, with Kapa Haka, music, stargazing and artist talks just some of the events we are asked to cover.

On sunday I was privileged to have the opportunity to cover the Bboy Soul Clap event.

Breaking or Break Dancing – one of the cornerstones of Hip Hop – was in the house with Tauranga Moana Bboy, Rush Wepiha representing. Now living in Perth Rush is a top-class competitor in the breakdancing world.

Competing and teaching around the world Rush has built up an impressive resume of wins and initiatives which you can read about here: http://rushwepiha.com/

Rush Wepiha. Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa
Rush Wepiha. Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa

The day kicked off with a series of Breaking workshops, starting with the very young – these guys were having fun!

With enthusiastic interpretive breaking the order of the day, these kids ran the gamut from crazy rollers to serious potential. All were given time to do their thing with Rush offering encouragement and expert tuition.

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Reach for the stars: Photograph by Michael Hall © Te Papa
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Strike a pose; Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa


The older kids stepped it up a level showing us this is all about flow and attitude and the level of fitness required to become good.

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Te Marae, Workshop; Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa
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Te Marae, workshop; Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa

Let Battle Commence

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Swerve with a Blue Suede Puma: Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa
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Rush answers questions about food; Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa

‘What do BBoys eat?’

Not the question I imagined being asked but none the less the perfect vehicle for Rush to explain the virtues of fresh fruit and veg: ‘You are what you eat, if you eat KFC then you are going to be a walking drumstick’  he said, then going on to talk about his active exercise regime of walking to the supermarket, taking the stairs and generally inserting activity into the everyday.

Beats courtesy of DJ Spell served as the perfect backdrop for the ensuing ‘Battles’, where two breakers come up against each other. They are then voted on by judges Rush and Swerve, the winner going on to battle another day.

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DJ Spell supplies the beats; Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa


Riffing on, among other things Japanese anime, the moves come straight from the street and popular culture, with flow and continuity between moves looking like one of the most important aspects to pulling of a good break.

What I saw was impressive, with one of the highlights being a 4x split vote dance of between two of the competitors. By the end of 4 consecutive battles they had been through the wringer but seemed grateful for the experience.

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Overall winner BBoy LB in full flight: Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa
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Competitor in action; Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa
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Eyes on the prize; Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa
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Four rounds later; Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa

Afrika Bambaataa of the hip hop collective Zulu Nation was the first to lay down the four tenets of Hip Hop: DJing (beats), MCing (Rap), Graf (Graffiti) and Breaking (Dance).

Along with the Kraftwerk-sampled ‘Planet Rock’ by Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Fives ‘The Message’, early 80s in NZ saw the release of the movie Beat St and local bands Upper Hutt Posse and Dalvanius Prime and the Patea Maori Club, blended Te Reo Māori with fresh beats creating something uniquely Aotearoa. Hip Hop was here to stay.

The early days of Hip Hop in NZ are history but the whakapapa of these NZ pioneers was clearly evident on the day.

Museums offer a window into our culture through collections, but more importantly they are here to represent the communities these collections come from.

On the day Rush offered us a positive window into the hip hop community. His blending of Tikanga Māori with the cornerstones of Hip Hop makes him a perfect ambassador and role model for Hip Hop in Aotearoa.



  1. Cool post and that clip is mean “Beat Street the king of the beat”
    It is amazing to see Breaking and Hip Hop culture still alive and strong at Te Papa

  2. Author

    The breaking is pretty awesome, did we really look like that in the 80s?

  3. A fantastic clip. Go! Go! Go!

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