About 1000 rangatahi have descended on Taranaki and Whanganui for Te Wiki Hākinakina o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori.
A celebration of sport and te reo Māori, the event is back after a three-year break due to Covid.
Te Wiki Hākinakina involves a range of sports from European mainstays, such as netball, touch and basketball, to traditional kemu such as Ki o Rahi and Hopu Te Ariki – a Māori weaponry game.
More than 30 kura kaupapa from around the country are competing at this year’s event.
Chester Villa – from co-host Te Kura o Ngāruahine Rangi – said while the sporting contest were important, it was only one aspect of the festival.
“Most of these kids would be living in environments where English is the main language spoken and they wouldn’t get many opportunities where they can come to a place and you turn to your left, you turn to your right, in front of you, behind you, there’s other Māori speakers around that are their own age.”
His kura was competing in Ki o Rahi – a team game played inside three concentric circles with a bin or tupu set in the middle as a target.
“The first team is kia o ma [attack] and their aim is to touch one of seven pou [posts] with the ball,” Villa said.
“You touch one pou, you get one point, you touch two pou you accumulate two points and then what you have to do is run into the pā wero to score a try and that’s how you earn those points.
“The other team are taniwha [defence]. The goal of that team is to hit the tupu with the kī [ball].”
Ki o Rahi was almost lost to history after being banned under the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907, Villa said.
“It was outlawed and we weren’t allowed to play it, but there’s a ropu [group] Ngā Taonga Takaro who did an awesome job to revitalise this game,” he said.
“I remember in 2007 nobody knew this game, nobody, and now we have 32 schools playing it here.”
Historically, Māori used the game to resolve arguments when they wanted to avoid armed conflict, Villa said.
“So, they’d play this game to settle the dispute. Traditionally, it was played with [woven] herekeke [balls] or stone, that type of resource they had back in the day, but we’re not as tough as them, we use a nice soft ball and a bin.”
Teacher Hakawai Livingstone was helping oversee a group from two Tāmaki Makaurau kura, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Maungarongo and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kotuku.
Events such as these were vital for his students who were often surrounded by languages other than Māori, he said.
“Coming here and seeing there’s at least 1000-plus kids here speaking Māori, all out of love for the kaupapa and all out of love for te reo Māori, it’s actually a really inspiring thing for both teachers as well as the students.”
Claudia Ramsay Aupouri was a student with Te Wharekura o Arowhenua in Invercargill.
She was revelling in Te Wiki Hākinakina – if not the Hāwera heat.
“We love it, because where we’re from our school is the only school that really speaks Māori, so being around people where it’s like a first language and everyone speaks it you can get along with everyone much better. Yeah we love it, it’s a pretty cool opportunity.”
Taiki Pou of Christchurch kura Te Whānau Tahi could relate.
“Because there’s schools from all the way down south in Invercargill and all the way to the tippity-top of the North Island.
“So, it’s great to converse in Māori with other people and you can relate to going to similar schooling environments and it’s great to have fun with other people.”
He was enjoying the sporting challenge of the Ki o Rahi competition.
“It’s real competitive especially when you’re playing against other competitive schools.
“It’s real hard when you first learn to play it, but once you get the hang of it it’s quite easy. It’s quite a fun, quite a challenging game.”
Te Wiki Hākinakina continues today with a Hīkoi Mō Te Reo Māori through downtown Ngāmotu / New Plymouth, before wrapping up tomorrow.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz