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Kapa Haka Academy forging young leaders

Academy students paying close attention to kapa haka expert Pania Reiri-Smith, right. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

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School’s out, but one group of kids are still hard at work.

The hall of Makoura College was filled with song as Wairarapa Kapa Haka Academy prepares to put on a performance this week.

Students from Years 7 to 11 have come from schools across the region to take part.

The academy runs three days of intense learning and students are expected to work hard to be ready to perform for whanau and friends by the end of the programme.

The academy was run by Rural Education Activities Programme Wairarapa (REAP), supported by Trust House Community Enterprise, and Property Brokers.

This is the fourth year of the academy and the first time it was open to Year 7 and 8 students.

At the end, performers would walk away with the confidence to share their skills with others.

Eleven-year-old Jayda Paku was one of the academy’s youngest members. It was her first year performing kapa haka.

She loved to sing and was learning a new song, “Kua tinga te ngarara”, with the group.

“It’s actually really fun.”

She was looking forward to getting up on stage for Thursday’s performance – if a little nervous.

“I want to build my confidence in singing in front of everyone.”

She said she was learning a lot from the older students in the group.

Because there was no regional competition this year, senior kapa haka students had time to fill leadership roles with the academy.

Wairarapa College prefect Ekin Te Mataki-Waaka was lending his time and skills by playing guitar.

He had been doing kapa haka for as long as he could remember and was a senior leader at the academy.

He said it was a great way to give back to the community.

“It’s about giving back the knowledge and showing kapa haka is fun and something people should get into.”

The 17-year-old said the academy and kapa haka were great ways to get involved with Maori events.

“It gives you another reason to put yourself out there and build up your confidence in te ao Maori or even just performing.”

Te Mataki-Waaka said he was keen to continue sharing his love of kapa haka.

“It’s awesome that REAP is doing something like this.

“I’ll probably do it next year too – and keep going.”

Carterton school teacher Lesley Standish said the academy was about supporting and extending skills and passion.

“The importance of having the academy is being able to support our rangatahi – our youth – build confidence in Maori performing arts and work as a whanau.

“This year, they’ve invited the Year 7s and 8s, which is great.

“Those kids are going to go back to their kura, taking these skills and that leadership back to their own groups.”

She said doing so created pathways in kapa haka and allowed younger performers the chance to make connections with older students and peers from other schools.

The academy will be presenting a haka and two waiata as part of their performance which is open to whanau and guests on Thursday at 5.30pm.

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