Te Mana Kuratahi 2023

Excitement builds for the biggest junior kapa haka event in the world, held in Nelson for the first time in four years.

After a four-year break, Te Mana Kuratahi National Primary School’s Kapa Haka Competition – the largest junior kapa haka event in the world – will be held once again.   

Fourty-five primary schools across the motu gathered on Monday, 30th October in Nelson’s Trafalgar Centre for four days of performances from our tamariki. The winners will earn the title Toa Whakaihuwaka.  

Schools will have 25 minutes to perform six or seven items. These will include waiata tira (optional), whakaeke, waiata tawhito, waiata ā ringa, poi, haka and whakawātea.  

Read the Term 4 edition of School News HERE

Each performance will have three of its own judges, totalling 26 for the full event. There will be taonga (awards) for non-aggregate performances: best waiata tira, kākahu (costumes), manukura tāne and manukura wahine (male and female leaders), whaikōrero, karanga and titonga hou (original composition).  

Chairman of Te Mana Kuratahi, Jack Te Moana says that there is a “passion and hunger” for kapa haka among tamariki this year, anticipating a great showcase despite the delays and challenges that the event has faced.  

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“Our tamariki are extraordinary. You’ll be seeing 5 year olds, our pīpī paopao mirroring the discipline, pride and perfection of their tū next to their 13-year-old tuakana. This is all part of the excellence and development of kapa haka – te mana o ngā tamariki, we’ll see the fruits of it on the national stage in Whakatū .” 

Te Mana Kuratahi is 23 years old, and Te Moana says “a lot has happened in those 20 years. 

“Te Mana Kuratahi plays a pivotal role of being able to showcase the best of our Māori culture through our tamariki and give them the fundamental knowledge and skills to continue performing at kura tuarua level and on to the pinnacle event for Māori performing arts, Te Matatini.” 

Defending champions, Toa Whakaihuwaka 2019, are Te Kura o Te Pāroa. They have been fundraising and practicing for their journey to Te Mana Kuratahi since Term One. 

Head tutor Ripeka Koia says “we’ve got a much younger kapa taking the stage next week, so we adjusted our schedules to have a more ao haka-focused way of learning. The change has given us more time to get our tamariki ready for the competition, which is great.” 

“Our tamariki also had to rangahau (research), how Ngāti Awa connects to Whakatū, to Te Waipounamu. One of the hononga (connections) is the kaupapa of our poi.  

“Its a favourite item and a privilege for our kura representing our iwi o Mataatua to acknowledge our shared ties and show our gratitude for the aroha and manaakitanga given to us by the host rohe.” 

Te Kura o Te Pāroa will perform Tuesday 31 October at 12:05 pm. Spectators can watch live on Whakaata Māori, the official broadcaster of the performance. The full schedule can be found on the Te Mana Kuratahi website, here.   

Further North, Ngā Huiarau o Kawakawa is also preparing for the journey to Nelson. Kaiakao and tutor Toni Waiomio said the dress rehearsal was a way to mihi those who helped prepare their tamariki.  

“We’re ticking so many firsts for our tamariki because of their ao haka. First time on a plane, first trip to the South Island, first to revive the stories of our tīpuna Kupe, who spent time in Whakatū.” 

Hosts, Ngā iwi e waru o Te Tauihu o te Waka began the festivities with a mass pōwhiri on Sunday 29 October at 11 am. Performances began Monday, and prizegiving will commence on Thursday afternoon. The event is expected to be attended by over 2000 people. 

“We’re excited and we’re ready. The entire iwi is pitching in and many have volunteered their time to prepare for the pōwhiri and for the arrival of the groups and tāonga of Te Mana Kuratahi,” says Sonny Alesana, chair of Te Tauihu o te Waka a Maui Māori Cultural Council. 

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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