WWI waiata stars of Kapa Haka festival

29 June 2015

Waiata from World War One will be featured in performances at the New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka at Te Papa this weekend (3 - 5 July 2015).

450 performers from 11 Kaumātua groups will be on stage during the weekend, the largest number of performers in the festival’s ten year history. All the performers are over the age of 50 and will be travelling to Wellington from as far away as Auckland and Invercargill.

This year the New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka has a special focus, as the weekend coincides with the 100th anniversary of the landing of the New Zealand Māori Contingent at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, on 3 July 1915. The weekend festival will commemorate this centennial event through performances of waiata and haka from the World War One era.

There will be a mass performance by the groups of two waiata during a remembrance ceremony on Friday night for the Māori Pioneer Battalion. Karangatia Rā was written by Sir Āpirana Ngata to welcome home the Māori Pioneer Battalion from World War One, and E Pari Rā was written by Paraire Tomoana as a tribute to Whakatomo Ellison, a soldier who died during the Battle of the Somme.

"Karangatira Rā and E Pari Rā are well known to the groups and lend themselves to a mass performance that will bring back many memories," says the festival’s Kaihautū, Puti Mackey. "Sir Āpirana Ngata and Paraire Tomoana were good friends and prominent public figures and their genius as composers helped ensure the survival of the language."

New Zealand Post has supported the Kaumātua Kapa Haka since 2008 and sponsorship spokesperson Malcolm Shaw says this is a particularly important year for the festival. "The focus on WW1 compositions marks the introduction of the modern day action song, waiata-a-ringa, developed and widely introduced during the war years. These will be special performances."

The Kaihautū of Te Papa Arapata Hakiwai says the annual Kaumātua Kapa Haka is always a highlight on the national museum’s calendar. “This year is set to be an incredibly special and moving event, with a large number of performers coming together to acknowledge and remember the Māori contribution in World War One. I’m immensely proud to be commemorating our ancestors and their contribution one hundred years on in such a significant and appropriate way.”

This is the 10th year the festival has been held and the 8th year it has been hosted by Te Papa. The event will be streamed live on the Maori Television website. For more information, see the Te Papa listings pageOpens in a new window. .

New Zealand Post Kaumātua Kapa Haka: Saturday 4 July and Sunday 5 July from 10.30am, Soundings Theatre, Level 2, Te Papa. Free entry.