An all male group NZMACI are set to impress the judges next week at the inaugural Jojo Super 9's kapa haka competition in Rotorua. The event was established to honour Te Arawa haka exponent the late Waimarie Jolene 'Jojo' Waaka.
The all-male team of students from the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts carving schools is gearing up to celebrate one of the attractions best guides.
"She was a free spirit, but with good intentions. She was absolutely one of a kind. Most of the time she would come to us and just want to make us laugh, no matter who it was, staff members or visitors," says performer Maharaia Chisall.
Nine teams with nine performers will have nine minutes to showcase their talent, including Jojo's whānau and close friends who are taking part.
Older sister, Arohaina Waaka says, "It's amazing how many people she has touched and for them to do this only five months after she's passed, is a big honour for my sister and for our whānau too."
Close friend, Flavian Kingi says, "This is a good way for us to relive and reminisce on how she was as a person. So things that will come out on stage I'm guessing wouldn't be the ordinary, right down to kākahu. Everything will be like her, out the gate."
This latest contemporary performing arts competition was created by Eraia Kiel, following Jojo's untimely death earlier this year. She was a much-loved kapa haka performer and entertainer of Māoridom who died nearly two months after the passing of her father, the late Reverend Te Napi Tūtewehiwehi Waaka.
The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts general manager said, "We really hope this competition will become an annual event, so that we never forget her skills, how she entertained the crowds, no matter who they were or where they were from."
"If they can keep it going, then they're doing what Jojo would of and my father would have wanted which is keeping our reo alive and keeping our culture alive," says Waaka.
The Super 9 competition starts next Wednesday at Te Puia, with the finals being held on Friday.