Home to the heart of kapa haka
14 Dec 2010
Te Matatini, Gisborne
16 - 20 February 2011
More than 50,000 people are expected to make a pilgrimage to Gisborne in February 2011 when New Zealand’s culture-rich Eastland plays host to Te Matatini - the biggest festival of Māori performing arts in the world.
Many will be returning home to their roots, others including international visitors, will combine a trip to the popular tourist destination - first city in the world to see the sun - with the chance to see the world’s top kapa hapa artists in action.
Staging the international festival in Gisborne has created unprecedented interest due to the region’s strong Māori culture and history, and 42 teams involving thousands of performers will compete for the coveted championship title.
Te Matatini is held every two years and the 2011 festival will be hosted by the Te Tairāwhiti iwi- a New Zealand tribe with a long history in kapa haka performance and home to some of New Zealand’s most famous Māori musicians.
Tairawhiti last hosted a national senior Māori performing arts festival 32 years ago in 1977, and the forthcoming Te Matatini will be held in the natural amphitheatre of Waiohika Estate - the same venue used by the popular Rhythm & Vines New Year festival.
The picturesque setting amongst the vines and rolling hills just six kilometres from Gisborne city is well used to large crowds. Since Rhythm & Vines began in 2003 the festival, now a three-day event, has become "the place to be" in New Zealand for New Year. More than 20,000 people were there to see the dawning of 2010.
With extensive camping facilities at the venue, organisers say they’re expecting families, cultural tourists and holiday makers to combine the Te Matatini 2011 festival with their annual summer holiday.
"Gisborne will be the destination of choice for local, national and international audiences. Waiohika Estate is the perfect outdoor venue as a natural amphitheatre to watch the best kapa haka performances," Te Matatini executive director Darrin Apanui says.
"The East Coast in summertime is always busy and this event in early February will enable families to have some quality time after the silly season and still enjoy the region, world famous for its sunshine."
Kapa haka origins
In 1972 a national kapa haka competition started what has now become a significant world-class international event on New Zealand’s performing arts and cultural calendar.
The national festival now known as Te Matatini is the world’s largest celebration of Māori performing arts and a worldwide profile for Māori culture and New Zealand.
Hundreds of teams throughout New Zealand and Australia compete in regional competitions for the honour of selection to represent their clubs at the national finals.
Te Matatini o te Ra 2011 will see 42 teams from Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia competing over four days for the international title of best kapa haka group.
Kapa haka is one of the few cultural performances in the world where performers must sing, dance and express themselves through body language and facial expression.
Māori harmony and rhythm
Performers use mainly voice, feet and hands to provide the beat and rhythm. Compositions are made more dynamic with distinctive Māori vocal harmonies and creative lyrics that reflect classical and modern Māori language and imagery.
The event begins with a powhiri (16.02.2011) where all kapa haka performers, supporters, dignitaries and visitors will be welcomed to the host region and the festival by the tāngata whenua / local people. The powhiri is carried out according to the customs and protocols of the host tribe.
Competition begins on 17 February, and judges select three teams from the first three days of competition for the finals on 20 February.
The festival is not simply for Māori - it is open to all people, regardless of culture, background, or age to come together to share and celebrate.
While the main focus of the festival is the kapa haka competition, it is also a celebration of Māori culture and cuisine. The festival features a range of retail stalls, food stalls, art and craft exhibitions, education workshops, and other entertainment.
Background: Gisborne, New Zealand
The Māori name for the Gisborne area is Tairawhiti - meaning ‘the coast upon which the sun shines across the water’.
Kaiti Beach, near the city, was the scene of two significant landings - the waka Horouta brought the first Māori to Eastland, and Captain James Cook’s Endeavour landed the first Europeans in New Zealand.
Captain Cook first set foot in New Zealand at Kaiti in 1769. European settlement was established in 1831 and the town which developed was named after Colonial Secretary William Gisborne, in 1870.
Prior to this the settlement was known as Turanga but confusion with Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, led to the name change. To early Māori the Poverty Bay area was known as Turanganui-a-Kiwa / 'stopping place of Kiwa'. Gisborne became a borough in 1877, and a city in 1955.
Māori culture is evident in settlements throughout the region - it is the place where the award-winning movie Whale Rider was filmed and the reality of that life portrayal is evident everywhere.
As well as intricately carved meeting houses and beautifully painted Māori churches, it is common to see children riding horses bareback on the beach and hear conversations in Te Reo Māori.
Gisborne’s landscape - coastal and inland - is untamed and wild, providing the real New Zealand experience sought by an increasing number of tourists.
In contrast to the expansive beaches with world-renowned surf spots, deep in the misty Te Urewera ranges, descendants of the ‘children of the mist’, the ancient Tuhoe tribe, still live in harmony with the forest around the village of Ruatahuna.
Tuhoe were the inspiration for New Zealand film director Vincent Ward’s award winning documentary In Spring One Plants Alone and subsequent movie Rain of the Children.
East Coast hosts Te Matatini festival 2011
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