The people of Tauranga Moana have been through tough times over the last few years, the Rena ship wreck, legal battles in the environmental court, and the 150th year anniversary of the battle at Gate Pā. All of which have been inspiration for first time Te Matatini performers, Tūtara Kauika ki Rangataua.
Tutor Awanui Black says, “Tūtara Kauika is a kapa haka group for the tribe, the family and the community. I founded it in 1994. Only a few people came to the practises back then. Now we are getting there.”
Performer Iharaira Blake says, “I'm super excited to be the face for Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Pūkenga, so our stories can be heard far and wide and people can see that we do have our own style of kapa haka in Tauranga Moana.”
Another member of the group, Aurere Thatcher says. “I was born into this group. My parents were performers when it first started. When I was 15, I performed for the first time in Ōpōtiki.”
“In 2004, we both performed in Ruātoki. That's when we really started doing the style of haka we see today. I heard someone ask one day, do you even do kapa haka in Tauranga Moana? I was really disheartened by that comment as we've been doing this for 20 years,” says Blake.
Black says, “Tauranga is not a kapa haka region. Other places yes, but not Tauranga. We'll see. Those who said that will soon be silenced.”
Another tutor for Tūtara Kauika ki Rangataua, Teraania Ormsby says, “We have to draw on a lot of different things. Family tragedy, Pukehinahina and topical issues here at home. I just want to let my group and all my performers know that we carry the integrity of our ancestors. There's no greater reward. If we stay true to our goals, we will achieve them.”
Black says, “Our dream has come true. Those who have passed away and are no longer here, the families who are no longer here, their dreams have come true. We hope that when we get up on that stage, Tauranga Moana will benefit. Not just one particular part of Tauranga Moana, but the entire region.”