Topic: Kapa Haka

Egyptian, US students to compete on Polyfest haka stage

By Taroi Black
  • Auckland

Westlake Boys and Girls High School will debut for their first time in Division 1 of the ASB Polyfest competition later this week. It's a great achievement for the team whose members come from all backgrounds.

Paora Winitana, a student from Westlake says, “Our boys practise every lunch break. We learn haka and song, our girls train at their school day in and day out. It's awesome.”

They're made up of 50 strong performers that not only hail from Aotearoa but abroad too.

One of them is Sophie Peterson, an American who fell in love with kapa haka the minute she saw videos on YouTube.

Sophie Peterson says, “I've actually never been to Polyfest, I think I’m going to be very intimidated by the crowds and also been in division 1 in the first year of being in Kapa Haka it's really intense. So, I don't really know what to expect so, I guess I'll have to experience it.”

“At first it was the most challenging thing ever, I’m not very coordinated but we practise every lunch time for an hour. So I’ve been practising at home too with my friend and I've been getting it every day in front of the mirror like this, like this.”

Even Mazen Darwish, an Egyptian who moved to Auckland just over a year ago.

Mazen Darwish says, “I've never really sung Māori before so it's a whole new language for me. I've always been interested in Māori culture and I saw them perform on stage, so I started to join them.”

The school qualified for Division 1 since they made the top four in Division 2 last year. They are tutored by Johnny Waititi.

Johnny Waititi says, “We expect a high standard in their performance. However, it's their dedication which I believe is their point of difference.”

Mr Winitana says, “Matua Johnny, he's really encouraging. He tells us to look after one and other, even the girls as well and our performers who don't have Māori heritage. Because this is our first time in Division we just want to make a positive move in the right direction.”

The group’s performance is a dedication to a stalwart of Auckland kapa haka, the late Damon Heke.

Miss Peterson says, “The culture here I feel like, they're my family because it is so welcoming and loving, so yes I feel like this is my home.”