Cultural group has success

Te Huinga Rangatahi O Nga Hau E Wha members hold the netball, marching and kapa haka 
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Te Huinga Rangatahi O Nga Hau E Wha members hold the netball, marching and kapa haka trophies they won at a South Island competition. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

A desire to relive its strong, proud history was the motivation for a Dunedin cultural group to enter a South Island tournament after sitting on the sideline for 10 years.

Te Huinga Rangatahi O Nga Hau E Wha, based at the Arai Te Uru marae, won six trophies at the South Island Maori women's netball tournament in Christchurch in September, and celebrated at the marae on April 12.

Member Moana Wallace said the group was named overall champion after competing in netball, marching and kapa haka.

"Every group that competes in the netball has to do the marching - those are the two compulsory sections of the tournament.''

Groups could opt in to a competitive or non-competitive kapa haka event, but each had to perform an item.

The Dunedin group had 34 participants, aged between seven and 36 years old, and competed against groups from Tuahiwi, Lyttelton and Kaikoura.

The one-day tournament started with a powhiri before participants took to the courts.

Wallace (32) said it was great to return to the tournament, having last entered when she was 17.

"For all the older girls, we are all returning participants. We absolutely loved it.''

The group started training for the tournament in April last year.

"We start training as early as we can so that we have as much time as possible to master all three disciplines.

"Our main purpose is to be a kapa haka group. When we compete in kapa haka competitions we need three to six months to train, so we try to give a little more time where we can.''

It was the first time in 10 years the group had entered a team, and it represented a resurgence within the group.

The group stopped formally operating in 2011 after its leader Tom Wiki Arapeta got sick. Despite attempts to pass the group on to someone else, the books were shut in 2014.

After Mr Arapeta died in late 2016, the group was inspired to restart kapa haka and whanau sessions the following year.

"As a family we decided to do that as part of our grieving process.''

The aim was to find healthy activities for their whanau to engage in, particularly the children.

Adults in the group were "privileged'' to learn about their culture when they were younger, and wanted to pass that on to the next generation.

The group had a proud history at the tournament, especially as it was often the only one representing Dunedin/Otago, and has secured the rights to host next year's tournament.

"I won't be fortunate enough to participate next time because I will be running the event, so I'm really glad I got that opportunity [to compete last year].''

JESSICA.WILSON @thestar.co.nz

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