Schools celebrate kapa haka return 

Cambridge East School student Micheal Tipene performs a haka with Solomon Haines on his left.

Nine schools competed at last week’s Combined Cambridge Schools’ Kapa Haka Festival.

The annual festival has run for decades in Cambridge but hadn’t been held for two years because of Covid.

Students performed at a packed Sir Don Rowlands Event Centre.

Watching her daughters Kahurangi and Kaia Quinlan perform at the Combined Cambridge Schools’ Kapa Haka Festival last Friday morning brought tears to Jenna Taylor’s eyes.

Kahurangi, 11, took a starring role for Leamington School, singing a waiata with three other girls.

Goodwood, Cambridge Primary, Te Miro, Leamington, Cambridge East and Kaipaki performed in the morning, and St Peter’s Catholic, Cambridge Middle and Cambridge High after lunch.

Cambridge Middle School principal Daryl Gibbs was at the event with his school’s kapa haka group, Te Kura Takawaenga o Kemureti o Kapa Haka Roopu, and also saw his son Olly lead the haka for Cambridge Primary School.

Olly, 10, reckons it was sheer volume that clinched his role as haka leader.

“The last practice we did my voice was really croaky and I was voice cracking a lot like this,” he said huskily.  “I only voice cracked once in the performance but it was still good.”

His dad thinks the annual festival is “probably the best event on the calendar”.

“We do lots of sports events, we do lots of things, but nothing has the same feel as this day,” Daryl said.

“I think a big shift I’ve seen in my five years is shifting back to the children sharing the local waiata and local haka as opposed to more generic traditional ones that we’ve had.  So just sharing in the learning I think, the local history and honouring our links with the local mana whenua.”

Cambridge Primary School teacher and kapa haka facilitator Adam Poka, of Ngati Koroki Kahukura, said his group had performed I Te Po, Haere Mai, Matariki, Tau Ka Tau, E Nga Iwi and Tangaroa Whakamautai.

“Kapa haka performing arts is really big in our culture so to have lots of kids exposed to that is really important.”

It was also an opportunity to bring localised history to light.

“Some of the waiata will pertain to Ngati Koroki Kahukura, to Tainui, and all of that’s really important so the kids connect to this place,” he said.

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