While Te Matatini pauses, Rarotonga calls






Roimata Mihinui Whakarewarewa, The Living Maori Village, shows few signs of the bustling life that made it a mustsee on tourists’ itinerary. Thanks to Covid-19 and lockdowns, international tourists are a memory. The Puarenga is empty of penny divers, tamariki are few and far between on the road. Even the stray cats are scarce. But make your way across the bridge and up Tukiterangi Drive towards the catholic church around noon every day during the month of January and you will hear the unmistakeable sound of haka. And the distinctive sound of Tuhourangi Ngati Wahiao. Buoyed by a successful outing at Te Matatini ki Te Ao 2019 the kapa was looking forward to Te Matatini 2021 at Tamaki Makaurau. Then Covid-19 struck and the 2021 event was postponed another year, still to be at Eden Park in Tamaki Makaurau. It’s now been pushed out to February 2023 (hopefully). But keeping the kapa together and engaged is not so easy without an end goal in sight. The kapa committee looked around and after consulting members decided a trip to Rarotonga for the 10-day Te Maeva Festival, a celebration of Cook Islands culture. The biennial event marks the Cook Islands constitution. “The lunchtime concerts are a bonding session with the aim of taking a team of 30 to Raro at the end of July,” said Milly Ruaporo a senior kapa performer whose whakapapa embraces Te Arawa and the Cook Islands. “I’m one of the geri[atric]s” says Milly. All the motu of Polynesia have been invited, said Milly, as well as indigenous people from all over the world. “We are going to be performing there too. Many of the team are taking their children so it will be a chance for the next generation to get some experience. “Families are all part of the practices too.” The concerts in the village are part of a fundraising effort by the kapa, in conjunction with their sponsor, the Village Tours. They are a chance to keep the team on their toes and to expand their repertoire to include numbers not usually presented on the Matatini stage. As well as being a major fundraiser for the kapa the concerts all the Village Tours to further expand the Whakarewarewa experience for tourists. The Tours also offer e-bikes and trail hikes as well as guided tours. The Whakarewarewa Village page shares videos and advertises the concerts. Another major fundraiser for the kapa was providing 1500 prepacked hangi meals for the Covid drivethrough vaccination hub. Watu Mihinui, co-ordinator and chair of the kapa organising committee, said the kapa was fortunate to win the contract for the hangi meals which were cooked in the natural steam boxes at Whakarewarewa. The team has never travelled as a kapa overseas before and Rarotonga seemed fitting because of the Te Arawa hononga to the islands as our tupuna waka called there on its journey from Rangiatea. “This is an incentive to keep us together, continue our whakawhanaungatanga. “As well, Rarotonga has no border restrictions.” While the group, formed in 1985, is hard out fundraising through its concerts, Watu said it’s just a normal part of kapa culture. “The first concert was like a big reunion, the first time the kapa had been together since our muster in October. It was great. “Even though we have reserves and for this trip there is a $200 nonrefundable deposit, we always fundraise so that when we attend an event there is always something for our pockets.”