Laie-based Te Kohau Hawaiiki wins again
While seven groups — three from New Zealand, one from Kauai and two from Oahu — entered the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 2012 Te Manahua Maori kapa haka or traditional performing arts festival from August 2-4 in Laie, Hawaii, only four of them were in competition . . .
. . . and in the end, the independent panel of judges from New Zealand awarded the overall championship to Laie-based Te Kohau Hawaiiki. The group was founded by Iraia and Miriama Bailey, Alex and Shannon Galea’i and Tama Halvorson just four months before winning the 2010 Te Manahua competition.
Second-place honors went to Te Rerenga Tahi, a roopu associated with the Papakura marae in South Auckland, New Zealand; and the Ratapu group of Aiea, Oahu, took third. A group from the Taipa Area School near Doubtless Bay, Far North, New Zealand, also competed.
This year Te Kohau Hawaiiki dominated every category of the competition except the haka, where the honor went to Ratapu led by Hawaka Jeremiah and assisted by his mother, Aunty Valetta Jeremiah of Kahuku, Oahu. She has been associated with the Polynesian Cultural Center since she came to Laie in 1963 as a member of the Te Arohanui o Te Iwi Maori group of Maori based in Temple View (Hamilton), New Zealand: At their own expense 150 of them reported for volunteer duty at the PCC six weeks before its grand opening to help with final preparations and stayed to captivate the opening-day crowd with their kapa haka performances. A follow-up comment below will make this explanation more relevant.
Though Te Kohau Hawaiiki’s victory appears lopsided in a results list, there was plenty of outstanding kapa haka to thrill the audience throughout the morning and early afternoon, including performances by the non-competing groups:
- Te Hokioi, led by the PCC Maori village “rangatira,” Seamus Fitzgerald, which won the 2008 competition.
- Na Mamo o Haloa, a Hawaiian group from the island of Kauai who are very interested in Maoritanga.(and competed in the Poi E category).
- And Hatea, a highly skilled group from Whangarei, New Zealand.
Chief judge Robert Ruha also passed out eight New Zealand national certificates in performing arts achievements from Te Whare Wananga o Awanuirangi, including a bachelor of arts degree for completing three years of intensive study to Seamus Fitzgerald.
“All of the judges were moved by the level of kapa haka in Hawaii,” said chief judge Robert Ruha, who added that it was “good to come because there’s such a high standard here.”
Another judge and member of the Hatea group described the day as a “raging fire of culture.”
In addition to the competition trophies and cash prizes, the PCC presented each of the participating groups with a koha or gift “to help with their efforts, time and sacrifices in preparing for the festival,” said Seamus Fitzgerald. “Without you it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Fitzgerald also made a special presentation of the PCC’s Te Arohanui o Te Iwi Maori trophy to Hatea. He explained that the trophy was brought to Laie in 2005 by a large group of original Te Arohanui alumni which the Center now uses to recognize groups that “best perpetuate the spirit of the aroha nui o te iwi Maori — the great love of the Maori people — as well as excellence in performance.”
August 3, 2012:
New concert added in 2012: Two amazing young Maori singing stars from New Zealand — Ria Hall (right) and Maisey Rika (left) shared both their talents and obvious love of Maori culture with the large crowd in the Gateway special events complex. The two ladies were fantastic, and also helped out the next morning emcee’ing the competition.
August 4, 2012:
Senior kapa haka whakataetae or traditional performing arts competition that started at 9 a.m. in the PCC’s Pacific Theater. A panel of eight judges — all recognized Maori cultural artists from New Zealand — evaluated the competing groups. Several other groups performed in exhibition only. Whether competing or sharing their love of Maoritanga in performance, in the end it was wonderful to witness the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 2012 Te Manahua festival.
Laie-based group wins 2010 Te Manahua
Every other year the tamariki or kids are so cute and talented, but for sheer excitement and thrills there’s no beating the seniors who whole-heartedly shared their love of Maori kapa haka or traditional songs and dances on August 14, 2010, during the Polynesian Cultural Center’s eleventh annual Te Manahua special event.
In a word, this year’s Te Manahua festival was fantastic. And while the judges — all from New Zealand and widely recognized their own kapa haka expertise — awarded the aggregate or overall championship to Laie-based Te Kohau Hawaiiki [pictured at left], the performances by the other participating groups were also highly enjoyable.
As indicated, Te Kohau Hawaiiki — founded four months ago and led by Iraia and Miriama Bailey, Alex and Shannon Galea’i, and Tama Halvorson — took first place; followed in second place overall by Ngati Ranana, a group comprised mostly of expatriate Maori living in London, England. Third-place overall honors went to Te Kura o Tongariro, a group of 22 students from Tongariro High School in Turangi, New Zealand. Nga Uri a Te-Wai-o-Taiki, an “urban marae” group from the Glen Innes suburb of Auckland, also competed in the aggregate division, while another Laie-based group, Te Hokioi, led by Seamus Fitzgerald — PCC Islands of Aotearoa manager — and Sonne Campbell, performed in support of the others but did not compete.
The visiting groups especially liked performing at the PCC. For example, Kiwi Biddle [pictured at right], the manukura tane or male lead of the group from London, said, “The PCC is beautiful. It’s like a slice of heaven here.” He also explained their group did fundraising for about the past six months, which raised half the money they needed for the 16-hour flight, each way (with a stopover in Los Angeles). This is the second time Ngati Ranana has competed in Te Manahua at the PCC.
Biddle — a native Maori speaker from Opotiki, New Zealand who’s in England on a two-year work experience — praised his fellow Ngati Ranana members “for their mahi — their hard work, and long journey. We let it all rip on the stage, and I was happy with our second-place finish. We were blown away by the Hawaii group. They were awesome.”
Grace Marsh, manager of the Tongariro group [pictured below] and a teacher at the high school, said their students “had an absolute lifetime experience that we would never have been able to give them again, probably ever. For some of them, this will probably be the first and last time they ever come to Hawaii.” She added that the group spent two-and-a-half years of fundraising to make the trip, and that “four or five of them would absolutely love to come back here for school.”
In announcing the winners, senior judge Donna M. Grant also presented National Certificates in Maori Performing Arts that are recognized throughout Aotearoa to Iraia and Miriama Bailey, Jason Smith and Destiny Robinson. Grant explained qualifying for the certificates requires demonstrating skills in poi, haka, waiata-a-ringa (action songs), moteatea (chants), and entry and exits “at the highest possible level”; and she added that recipients are also required to do research into the ancestral origins of these skills.
Haka Hard and Poi E
On the Friday evening before, members of the groups and fans packed the whare nui or meeting house in the PCC Islands of Aotearoa to watch Haka Hard and Poi E — competitions featuring up to five people performing for no more than four minutes.
After all the excitement and fun, the young men and women of Te Kura o Tongariro walked off with top prizes in both categories.
Mana and Wairua
Summarizing the 2010 Te Manahua festival, Fitzgerald said, “The mana could be felt from every competitor throughout the whakataetae [competition]. It’s truly amazing to have groups from all over the world gather at the PCC to showcase Maori culture.”
“In all of their performances, competitors exuded immense pride and represented the vibrant wairua [spirit] of the Maori culture, which is really what the PCC is all about, giving everyone a deeper understanding and appreciation of all of the cultures that make up Polynesia.”
A Hawaiian chant from the hosting Polynesian Cultural Center welcomed the competitors on August 9 to Te Manahua 2008. As a Maori chant in response filled the Pacific Theater, everybody there that morning clearly sensed they were about to experience a tremendous day of kapa haka — the traditional songs and dances of New Zealand's Maori people — during this special ninth annual celebration.
"On behalf of the Polynesian Cultural Center whanau, ohana or family, we're so grateful that you're here," said P. Alfred Grace, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing and a Maori from Turangi, New Zealand.
Before the competition began, emcee Kim Makekau, a Hawaiian who has deeply immersed himself in Maori culture for many years, acknowledged the sponsors and all those who worked behind the scenes to put on Te Manahua, as well as the judges who came from New Zealand for the event. He also recognized the kaumatua or revered elders in the community "who are the support and backbone of all things Maori that happen here."
One of those kaumatua, Uncle Colin Shelford, retired rangatira or leader of the Polynesian Cultural Center's Maori village for many years, said afterward he was impressed by the visiting groups, and encouraged all of them to "start early to learn Maori culture." For example, he said he was not allowed to speak Maori when he was going to school.
"It takes a lot of effort and sacrifice from both the performers and families to put on a competition like this," Makekau added.
The actual performances were thrilling, as Maori music filled the amphitheater and the competitors shared their talents. Almost as impressive as the performances, as each group finished, other groups in the theater would extemporaneously stand and chant in honor of their presentations. In some cases, more than one group would chant: It was magical!
"The raw emotion of the performers leaves a lasting impression on everyone who attends, and when you look around you can see tears in their eyes," said Rahira Makekau, a Maori from Tokoroa, New Zealand, organizer of the festival and wife of the emcee. "This festival is about the wairua, or spirit of the Maori culture and when these groups perform, you can see the intensity on their faces and hear it in their voices. It is especially moving to witness groups from around the world coming together to celebrate, share and perpetuate the Maori heritage."
In the final results, the first place overall title went to Na Mamo o Haloa [pictured above], the Kauai group which started as a hula halau or school and does not have any Maori in it, besides the tutor Hone Bailey, who travels back and forth from Oahu to train them.
Laie-based Te Hokioi won second place overall, followed by Ngati Ranana — the London, England, group comprised of expatriate Kiwis, all but two of them Maori.
In preface to the awards, chief judge Matiu Tahi said he and his fellow judges were "impressed with the strength" of the presentations. He also thanked the PCC for its hospitality. Then the judges and "friends" from the audience put on their own display of kapa haka in appreciation for the earlier talent the groups shared.
Afterward, Esther Jessop, one of the leaders of the England-based group, said over the years she's found Maori come to London "without having danced, and it's not until they come to Ngati Ranana that they learn, which helps them get their confidence. Then you ought to see them shine. This is the first time for most of these people: We've never joined a competition like this before, and I'm so proud of the group."
"When they were on this stage, the feedback they got from the audience just lifted them up. It was so wonderful," she continued. Jessop, a radiographer, explained the group was established 50 years ago and "has grown and grown."
Te Ariki Matua, one of the Te Rerearangi performers who's originally from the Cook Islands, explained the Australian group has only been together for the past six months, "however many of us are members of other groups." He added they recently performed in Melbourne. "I loved being here. This is my very first time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the competition."
Carson Peapealalo, a former PCC performer who danced with Te Rangitahi, said the competition "was a really good opportunity to share the culture. It also helps Hawaiians and others to get involved. It's good to be back here."
"Next year is the junior competition, then we hope to see the seniors back in two years. We also hear there are some other international teams coming," said Kim Makekau. "I think we're going to get groups not only from Australia and England, but also groups from New Zealand will be coming here."
"London and Australia are just the beginning," added Rahira Makekau, who credited one of Te Hokioi's members with making initial contact with the international groups this year. "The key to the whole thing is supporting our culture and what it means to be Maori. The standards were very high this year."
There you have it: Plan to attend the 2009 Te Manahua competition.
—By PCC alum Mike Foley
Te Whanaketanga 2007 In the Polynesian Cultural Center's eighth annual Maori whakataetae ("competition") and the first in its new Te Whanaketanga ("developmental education") format of youth performing one year and adults in alternating years, the tamariki or children competed in the Pacific Theater on Saturday, October 13, in two categories: juniors, ages 6-12; and intermediate, ages 13-18.
There was also a Laie, Hawaii-based Te Hamata "babies" group, consisting of children up to age 5, who performed first in exhibition only; and following the tamariki competition, as part of the new Te Whanaketanga format, two adult male groups participated in Haka Hard, and two adult female groups in Poi E!
Uncle Colin Karewa Shelford, recently retired rangatira or "chief" of the PCC's Maori village, started the morning off with a bi-lingual prayer in Maori and English. Seamus Fitzgerald, a former PCC Maori cultural ambassador who is currently working on a doctorate degree in New Zealand who also spoke sometimes in Maori, and Delsa Moe, the Cultural Center's Vice President of Cultural Presentations, acted as emcees.
They introduced this year's judges, and explained that the young performers would be evaluated in the non-aggregate categories of kakahu or attire; waiata hou or original song compositions; manukura wahine, female leaders; and manukura tane, male leaders.
Additionally, each group was judged in aggregate on whakaeke or entrance; moteatea, traditional chanting; waiata-a-ringa or action songs; poi and haka; and their whakawatea, or exit.
This year the overall first prize in the intermediate category went to Te Roopu o Tumanako, the Laie-based group lead by Sheena Alaiasa; and Te Manawa 'O Atooi, a group from the island of Kauai, won the overall first prize in the junior category. For the complete 2007 results... All the tamariki were especially cute . . . and very talented. For a complete list of the 2007 participants...
In keeping with the new Te Whanaketanga theme, Fitzgerald shared a Maori proverb: "The old men have come to fight, and the new leaders have gone fishing . . . as I look at all the young children as they come on here, they're the hands of our future."
Fitzgerald explained that PCC Director of Cultural Islands Pulefano Galea'i inspired him years ago to start the Maori cultural arts special event, based on the success of the Cultural Center's Samoan World Fire Knife Dance Competition. He added it's also inspired by the national kapa haka competition held every two years in New Zealand that "keeps the culture strong."
In this regard the Te Manawa 'O Atooi group from Kauai, that won the junior competition, surprised many in the audience with their powerful performance and beautiful costuming.
Hone Bailey, an elementary education major at BYU-Hawaii from New Zealand and one of the Maori cultural tutors from the Polynesian Cultural Center who has been traveling to Kauai to work with the group, said the experience "turned out great. I love these kids. They're like my family. I've shared a few things with them, and they've shared a lot with me. I'm very proud of them. There are no Maoris in the group."
"Just from my own experience teaching these non-Maori students here in Hawaii, they're really hungry to learn about other cultures. It also helps with their own identity, and I've really seen a change in them," Bailey said, "and I'm sure they've felt it, too."
Nicola Pere, a New Zealand Maori now living in Laie with three children and a grandchild performing in Te Whanaketanga, thought the entire program was awesome. It's great for our children who are actually New Zealand-born and can come here to Hawaii and still learn their language and culture...and it's not just Maori people." She added that her children know their parents love Maori culture. "It's a part of who they are."
Charlene Shelford Lum, a Maori who has lived in Hawaii for many years, expressed similar sentiments: "It's been wonderful to see the young people embrace the Maori culture." Lum, a former PCC performer and instructor, also helped prepare the Kahurangi group from Kahuku High School in their first-ever appearance. "I was happy for them, because she [Marsie Mo'o] did things with them that we haven't seen for a long time."
Following the awards ceremony, two Samoan brothers from New Zealand, who comprise the popular Adeaze duet "down under," presented a special concert in the Pacific Theater. Vendors with unique Maori-themed merchandise were also part of the celebrations.
In a word, Te Whanaketanga is a winner. Don't miss the next one.
— Mike Foley, PCC alumnus and editor
In a fantastic display of Maori kapa haka, or tradition songs and dances, Te Hokioi — a group comprised of Polynesian Cultural Center employees, alumni, Maori and other Polynesians from the surrounding community led by former PCC Maori cultural ambassador Seamus Fitzgerald — swept every first place award in the 2006 seventh annual Whakataetae Festival.
Te Roopu Ratapu, comprised of Maori and other Polynesians primarily from Honolulu and led by Hawaka Jeremiah and his mother, long-time PCC Maori cultural expert Aunty Valetta Jeremiah, took second place. Ngati Hiona, a group led by PCC alum David Atkinson and based primarily in Salt Lake City, Utah, but with members from throughout the western U.S., took third place. For all the results...
In reality, however, everyone was a winner — the performers and the audience — because of the wonderful opportunity to participate in a rich feast of Maori culture. For example, though they were competitors, the three groups and even Maori members of the audience jumped up and welcomed each group in turn with stirring chants and actions as they took the stage . . . and at the end, the judges and others likewise demonstrated their own impromptu appreciation in honor of all the winners.
It was incredible, fun and enriching; and you could see some of the performers on stage were moved to tears, while others swelled with pride, in appreciation for their Maori heritage.
Tane Kaka — a former PCC student worker and fulltime employee who is the son of PCC's own "Uncle" George Kaka, and who has a daughter and son-in-law dancing with Te Hokioi — said he enjoyed "feeling the wairua [spirit] of the culture and seeing my people perform our beloved dances.
Aunty Nikki Kereama Wallace, a PCC Maori cultural expert, said she also "thoroughly enjoyed all that happened, especially the spirit, the wairua. The overall quality of the performances was awesome." Lani Mauga, a former PCC dancer and Maori member of Ngati Hiona now living Taylorsville, Utah, said it was "amazing to find out there was a group [in Salt Lake City]...who welcomed me. It was just like being welcomed home, and I love it." Arapata Meha, Associate Dean of Admissions at BYU-Hawaii, a former music teacher, and a Maori who helped emcee this year's Whakataetae, said, "The singing was superb, especially the harmony and the ability of the women to carry the melody. There was a beautiful choral sound to the musical performances. It was tremendous from all the groups."
"The standards of performance are very high here, and all of the groups put in major efforts to prepare for the competition. The cohesiveness of the groups was very apparent, and it was a great experience to watch it," he added.
"The true value of the Whakataetae is to bring people together and give all Maori and non-Maori the opportunity to celebrate our cultural traditions. This is a wonderful venue to do that, and I hope we continue this tradition we've established in Laie."
Donna M. Grant, who made her first trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center as a Whakataetae judge, said she was "wonderfully surprised" with the experience. "It's a wonderful venue, it's a wonderful learning place, it was a wonderful occasion, and I was really, really pleased."
She added she was "very pleased to see the other islanders taking part, because it's a growing and sharing experience."
"Back home this [kapa haka] is a major feature every two years as a national competition. People work hard for at least nine months to a year in preparation for this big occasion," she said. "Your winning group would be able to stand on the stage [there] with great pride, and be proud of their achievements. That was one of the most pleasant surprises for me."
The PCC's sixth annual 2005 Maori Whakataetae Festival was a rich feast of traditional songs, dances, ceremonies, reunion, fun, and an incredible senior division competition that featured several of the finest Maori performing groups this side of New Zealand.
The Te Reo Maori speech competition followed in the Whare Runanga (meeting house), and then everyone went to the Kai-Hakari (dinner celebrations) at the Hale Ohana. The program included:
- Music by the Kaka family band
- A traditional and contemporary Maori fashion show
- A video presentation and performance from Te Arohanui Maori group
Saturday morning, August 6, activities in the Pacific Theater included:
- Te Arohanui Maori group
- Juniors division competition
- Seniors division competition
- Mau Taiaha (fighting lance martial arts) graduation, with Paora Sharples
- Exhibition performance by Te Here A Maui
- Prize ceremony
In the end, as with many great competitions, the difference in quality and versatility between the champions and runners-up came down to a very slim margin, with Te Wananga Maori o Hawaii — led by Tama Halvorsen and Shannon Niania Galea'i — recapturing first place from Te Hokioi, led by Seamus Fitzgerald. Te Wananga Maori, the 2003 champions, lost first place to Te Hokioi in 2004.
Another smaller group, Ngati Hiona from Utah — led by former Polynesian Cultural Center alumnus David Atkinson — rounded out the senior division competition. That group has historical ties leading back to the many missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who served in New Zealand, learning the Maori language and culture while there. Ngati Hiona is also part of a movement to build a traditional Maori marae or meeting place in Utah.
Three Junior Division groups comprised of youth up to age 13, also competed on August 6, with Te Ropu o Tumanako — led by Sheena Alaiasa — repeating as this year's first place winner. See all the results... Both the first and second-place senior division groups are predominately comprised of current and former Polynesian Cultural Center employees, BYU-Hawaii students, and members of the surrounding communities who are interested in Maori culture. Some are part-Maori or have ties to New Zealand, others are of various Polynesian extraction, but not all of them.
For example, Halvorsen is part-Hawaiian, and one member of his group is a Filipino who in addition to his performing skills spoke eloquently enough in te reo or the Maori language to capture third place in the speech contest on August 5.
For the second year in a row, judges agreed the skill of the two predominant groups is comparable to that seen in Te Matatini — New Zealand's national biannual kapa haka or traditional Maori song and dance competition.
Chief 2005 Whakataetae judge Paora Sharples, who is widely respected and a member of the group Te Roopu Manutake, said of this year's competition, "This is my first time judging here, and I think the caliber is awesome." He added that all of the 2005 judges "decided it was a good idea" for the Whakataetae winner to compete in New Zealand, and that they would make that recommendation to Te Matatini organizers.
Another judge, Kim Makekau, a former Maori cultural lead at the Polynesian Cultural Center originally from Maui who now lives in Tokoroa, New Zealand, described the two bigger groups as "neck-a-neck. That's a reflection of not only their commitment, but their joy in doing it. And the thing is, they're all students, community, and family. I'm very much excited about where they're at."
His wife, Rahira Makekau, a championship kapa haka performer, added that "both those groups are worthy to stand at a national level at home. They truly are, and it shall happen."
She also said she was "particularly touched by Ngati Hiona [the smaller group from Utah]. They came, regardless of their numbers...and they were just an inspiration to all of us."
Te Aroha Nui returns for the first time:
Another fascinating aspect of the PCC's 2005 Whakataetae Festival was the first-ever return as a group of surviving members of Te Aroha Nui Maori Company.
In 1963, 148 labor missionary volunteers from New Zealand formed Te Aroha Nui to come to Hawaii to help put the finishing touches on the soon-to-open Polynesian Cultural Center. As the largest group at that time, they dominated the PCC's first-ever night show. They also performed in California and Utah during their six-week tour.
Hoki Tucker, one of the Te Aroha Nui group leaders, said they all felt "extremely emotional" over this return, because many of those who originally performed in 1963 have since lost their partners.
"But the memories of yesteryear and seeing what the PCC looks like today is worth everything we did. It was worth it in the beginning. It was extra special to be a part of that group."
She added for most of the 48 survivors this is their first time to return to the Polynesian Cultural Center since it opened 42 years ago.