One of the biggest events on the Māori school calendar is being held this week in Taranaki and Whanganui. RNZ reporter and former competitor Pokere Paewai takes us into the world of Wiki Hā.
When I think of my final days at kura, I think of Wiki Hā. A large final gathering of the kura kaupapa bubble, before stepping out into the big wide Pākehā world.
Te Wiki Hākinakina o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori – Wiki Hā, as it’s more commonly known – is one of the biggest sporting events on the kura calendar, attended by kura from across Aotearoa, big and small.
Held every two years, Wiki Hā caps off the year for many kura and for Year 13s, like me almost 10 years ago, as the final swansong of their schooling days.
At my kura in Tāmaki Nui-a-Rua, Dannevirke, we would pile into a couple of vans and head cross country to exotic locales like Rotorua, Ōtaki or Taupō.
We would stay, often with other kura, at far flung marae like Ōwhata, Tūkorehe and Hatepe. Right now, marae across Taranaki will be filled up with students from around the country, meeting, greeting, sharing kai and jibes.
Te Korowai o Ngāruahine chief executive and parent Te Aorangi Dillon said Wiki Hā was a celebration of tamariki who had been educated in te reo.
“It’s a celebration of our reo. It’s a celebration of our competitive spirit. It’s also a celebration of sport, fitness [and] wellbeing.
“Engari ko te kaupapa nui o tēnei ko the whanaungatanga, ko te kotahitanga ki roto i te kaupapa,” she said.
At the heart of the event has always been whakawhanaungatanga, the process of establishing and building relationships.
It provides a chance for tauira to come together and foster relationships on and off the field and between different schools.
It is especially important since students often do not have many people their own age to socialise with in te reo outside of the classroom.
There is not a lot of incentive for kura kids to continue speaking outside of school hours, sometimes, it is easier to take the path of least resistance and flip back to English.
In that sense spaces like Wiki Hā, which are conducted 100 percent in te reo, are invaluable. Dillon said it was encouraging to see so many young people speaking te reo.
“Just to see all of these taiohi come here and they’re strong, they know who they are, they are confident in their Māoritanga. It’s a wonderful sight especially here in Taranaki.
“Ruarua noa iho mātau te iwi Māori e noho ana ki ēnei takiwā, engari ahakoa tērā ko mātau te mana whenua.”
Something that has grown in recent years has been a focus on Māori sports like kī o rahi, a fast paced ball-in-hand game that pits attackers, the ki oma, against defenders, the taniwha.
A more recent inclusion is hopu te ariki, a new game based on the ancient martial art of mau rākau. Two teams square off with rākau in hand competing for the title of ariki.
Sports like touch, basketball and netball remain a major part of the event, and are especially competitive. When student numbers are limited everybody needs to put their hand up to play – at my kura we had no choice.
Wiki Hā has exploded in popularity, with more than 1300 students and whānau from 32 different wharekura attending this year.
Thursday will be the final day, marked by a march through the streets of New Plymouth to celebrate 50 years since the Māori language petition was delivered to Parliament, one of the catalysts for the kura movement.
Dillon said Wiki Hā provided a vehicle for the continued fight for te reo.
“Te reo Māori is not a dying language, you will see it on the streets of New Plymouth, Ngāmotu.
“Kei konei tonu mātau e whawhai ana mō tō tātau nei reo, mō tō tātou nei whenua puta noa i te motu, ana ko ēnei ngā hua kua puta mai i ērā momo kaupapa.”
The festivities will be capped off by a ball, a pō kanikani, giving students the chance to get dressed up and enjoy themselves.
Wiki Hā was established in 2002, with the inaugural festival in Rotorua. But even though its size and scale has changed, its purpose has remained constant.
A vehicle to unite Kura Kaupapa Māori Aho Matua around the country and celebrate te reo Māori.
The next rohe to host will be Te Waka a Māui, the South Island.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz