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New festival stirs cultural spirit


WORDS/JULIA WADE PHOTOS/JOSIE GRITTEN

A local school resounded with passionate cries, harmonious song and thundering feet as Kaipara children took to the stage for the first time at the inaugural Toi Maori Festival.

Hosted by Otamatea High School (OHS) on December 5, the show’s participants all came from Kaipara schools, giving inspirational, stirring performances of both haka and waiata, and was the brainchild of OHS kaiawhina Taira Phillips who, after her initial idea, had only a small window of five weeks to get it organised.

“It literally came from a small idea… we’ve been training all year with our kapa haka group and the kids had missed out on every festival due to them being cancelled,” she says. “They’d worked really hard yet had nothing to aim for, so thought I’d just randomly do this festival!”

Emceed by the school’s Te Reo Maori teacher, Matua Wiremu, and kapa haka tutor, Ngaroimata Morgan, the event received ‘huge participation from the community’ with sponsorship and donations, allowing for a lot of spot prizes to be given away. Philips says there has also been a lot of support for the festival to become an annual event.

“I have had a lot of positive feedback from so many people and the schools pretty much wanting me to create it every year, but I’ll have to take it to the school board first,” she says. “The event was amazing, teachers got involved and the children really enjoyed it, performing on a bigger stage. The whole day ran really smoothly… was a really good vibe.”

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