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Te Tumu Paeroa staff on stage at Te Matatini

Thousands of supporters have been filling Westpac Stadium this week, attending Te Matatini – the biennial Kapa Haka Festival. 

There are over 2,000 performers competing at this year’s four-day event. And Te Tumu Paeroa service coordinator Jenishavorne ‘JJ’ Waipuka is one of them. Late nights, early mornings, and intensive physical exercise are all part of the training required by JJ and her rōpū Te Rangiura o Wairarapa in becoming kapa haka fit.

While preparing for Te Matatini requires commitment and a lot of handwork, it’s not hard to see where the rōpū’s energy, dedication and focus comes from.

“We want to embody and radiate our mātāpono (principles) of our rōpū. Those principals being te reo Māori, te aho matua and Wairarapatanga” says JJ when talking about her passion for kapa haka. “To me kapa haka is the gateway to the mātāpono for our rōpū”.

Performing on stage at what is the “biggest Māori event in the world, it’s only natural to feel nervous. To manage nerves it’s all about focussing on who you’re representing says JJ. “Knowing it’s a privilege to be on stage representing our iwi, whānau and friends always helps me overcome those nerves”.

And for those new to Te Matatini, what should they expect? “The festival embraces you into the world of kapa haka, from the grace of the poi to the ferocity of the haka”, says JJ. “It’s our biggest platform to be Māori and to be proud.”

Jenishavorne Waipuka talks Te Matatini

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