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Kapa Haka Blog by Sheena Waerea

Let me take you on a hīkoi down memory lane to a time filled with laughter, a bit of panic, and a whole lot of heart. It was my very first time stepping onto the atamira with Te Roopu Pakeke Kapa Haka o Ngāti Kea Ngāti Tuara at the Te Arawa Kapa Haka Regional Competition, and oh boy, was it a ride—a waka ride with a few rapids!

Our journey began with my partner, Jake, myself, and our pēpi, Hiwamaiio, tagging along to the kapa haka practices. Little did we know, we were embarking on a voyage less about kapa haka but steeped in whanaungatanga and kotahitanga. It wasn’t just about learning the steps or the songs; it was about connecting with our wider whānau, sharing in the joys (and frequent frustrations of forgetting my kupu) of practice, and growing closer not just to each other but to our wider community.

A special shoutout to our kaiako, Hemi Waerea and Kaaterama Pou, and all the ringa raupā who supported us. Without your patience, guidance, and sometimes a little bit of a push, our journey would have been a waka trip without our hoe.

As for the performance itself, let’s just say it was a journey from the back row to the spotlight that I hadn’t quite anticipated. Moving from the safety of the third row to the front line was a mix of honour and sheer terror. Suddenly, the kupu I had been confidently practising became like slippery eels in my mind, eluding capture just when I needed them most. The night before our performance, you could find me, Jake, and even Hiwamaiio (in her own way) cramming like students before a final exam.

Come the day of the performance, my nerves were a tangle of excitement and fear. Yet, the moment we stepped onto the stage, the nerves transformed into a powerful mix of ihi, wehi, and wana. We were no longer individuals but a single roopu, moving with one heart, one purpose. It was exhilarating and uplifting.

Following our moment in the spotlight, we retreated to the Ruck n Maul, where the real celebrations began. Amidst the well-deserved kai and drinks, the laughter, and the recounting of our shared experiences, there was a unanimous feeling of pride and anticipation for the next challenge. This wasn’t just a competition; it was a declaration of who we are, where we come from, and the unbreakable bonds that tie us together.

Looking back, it wasn’t just about performing or competing. It was about honouring our pakeke in the roopu. It was about honouring our tupuna that have passed. It was about embracing every misstep, every moment of doubt, and transforming them into a performance that spoke of our aroha.

So here’s to our first crack at the world of kapa haka with Ngāti Kea Ngāti Tuara—filled with moments of hilarity, and the warm embrace of whānau.

Ngā mihi nui to all who walked this path with us. Until the next competition, let’s keep those fires of kotahitanga burning bright!