An Auckland performance artist will bring a fresh take on kapa haka to the world stage in July.
Kura Te Ua is one of around 120 Maori and Pacific artists chosen to represent New Zealand at the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands from July 1 to 13.
Her performance, The Cries from Down Under, combines elements of kapa haka, contemporary Maori dance, and drama in a new concept known as haka theatre.
She says although haka theatre may have originated as far back as the 1920s, younger generations were only introduced to the genre last year during the Rugby World Cup, with the production Arohanui – The Greatest Love by Te Matatini Society Inc.
The show, which featured 30 kapa haka performers, merged traditional and modern Maori performing arts forms such as waiata, haka, dance, poi and theatre to tell a story about love and revenge.
Te Ua, who performed in Arohanui, says The Cries from Down Under is about the relationship between tohora (whales), tipuna (ancestors) and humans.
She says whales have special importance in Maori culture. “They’re like the gods of the sea.”
The Festival of Pacific Arts is a government-to-government scheme between 27 Pacific nations and territories, and is held every four years.
Creative New Zealand leads the New Zealand delegation and is responsible for selecting artists to perform and bringing them to the host country.
Muriwai Ihakara, manager of the New Zealand delegation and senior manager of Maori engagement at Creative New Zealand, says the festival features a wide range of art forms.
“The New Zealand delegation comprises a breadth of artists stretched across all genres. [It includes] people who are visual artists, performing artists, musicians, weavers and carvers,” he says.
Te Ua, who teaches Maori performing arts at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Mangere, says she is working on The Cries from Down Under with her partner, but hopes to bring in two or three others to perform the piece closer to the time.
She notes several reasons for taking part in the festival, including the networking opportunities it provides with leading Pacific artists.
She is also excited about chance to put haka theatre on the world stage, and learn more about other Pacific countries’ performing arts.
“I’m really passionate about Maori performing arts, and sharing that on an international scale.
“I’m also attracted to the different Polynesian cultures or indigenous cultures of the world, and their art forms,” she says.