Topic: Kapa Haka

Respected community leader, Damon Heke passes away aged 42

By Raniera Harrison

Another sacred huia bird has flown as the many hearts and minds congregate to grieve its departure.

Well respected community leader and Māori performing arts exponent, Damon Heke has passed away, aged 42 after a long battle with nasopharyngeal carcinoma - cancer in the ears, nose, and throat.

Heke, a renowned performer in Te Waka Huia, and more recently Te Tai Tonga kapa haka (of which he co-tutored alongside his wife, Keleigh) was instrumental in many community-based initiatives in the Manurewa, and wider South Auckland area. 

He was an elected member of the Manurewa Marae Board of Trustees, a Community Development Worker with the Te Manu Ka Rewa Community Development Project, and also the co-director of Manaaki FX, a charitable marae-based marketing initiative.

Heke went into remission in April 2015 after his well-documented journey going through numerous chemotherapy treatments, and other remedies. However, it soon returned.

He leaves behind a legacy of positivity and triumphs through life's many obstacles.

He is survived by his wife, Keleigh and their five children - Tiahomai, Haven, Rehia, Daleigh, and Amohia.

Te Kāea understands that Damon will be welcomed on to Manurewa Marae, Auckland on Monday with further funeral arrangements to follow. However, at this stage, the family are looking to return him to Rotorua.