Nga Purapura sports hall was filled with almost 1000 people for the opening of the 20th Ōtaki-Kapiti Schools kapahaka festival, in early November.
Hosted this year by Ōtaki School, their three groups — Te Korowai Whakamana’s (TKM) nohinohi (five to eight years) and tuakana (nine to 12 years) groups and the Kia Manawanui — bilingual class and Waitohu School joined together to call the visiting schools into the hall. There they were welcomed with a whakatu — small powhiri. Ōtaki Kaumatua Rev Rowdy Akuhata and Kapiti District Kaumatua Don Te Maipi greeted all those gathered. With 14 schools and 16 groups performing and their parents and supporters, it made for a very busy day.
It was in 1996 the then principal at Paekakariki School thought it would be a good (non-competitive) thing for schools. Since then the festival has grown like Topsy, out growing its first venue the Paraparaumu Memorial Hall, Waikanae’s Memorial Hall and it’s almost too big for El Rancho’s Kauri Hall!
Later in the morning, after Paekakariki’s performance Ōtaki’s Uncle Rowdy and Kaumatua Don cut the birthday cake to celebrate the 20th festival. The first performers were TKW’s youngest children — nohinohi who went through their song, dance, poi and haka routines with as much poise and confidence as their older school mates, much to the delight of the visitors. There were some interesting inclusions from some schools — one of Paekakaiki’s songs was accompanied by guitar, cello and violin. Raumati South included the song poi-e and their older boys incorporated hip hop dance to their routine. Paraparaumu Beach marched on to the stage to the song Maori Battalion.
Performances from TKW’s tuakana group and Waitohu brought the day to a close. Following Waitohu’s performance, TKW handed the mauri — a kete holding the life force and treasures of Takiri o te Ata, to Waitohu, who will host next year’s festival.
Such was the level of performance from all the schools that the comment “I’m glad I’m not judging today” was heard from one adult as they left the hall..
Uncle Rowdy closed the day with prayer ” …. and glory in the children, I’m glad it’s not a competition!”
Nearly all the schools from Paekakariki to Ōtaki attended the festival, each wearing their own costumes, representative of their school. The groups involved from 30 to over 100 children, though most having 50-60 children and most from the older years seven and eight classes.
The logistics of training, not just song and movement, but poi, taiaha and haka, preparing costumes and having transport, is rather like preparing an army battalion for exercises!