Friday, 26 April 2019


Ko te Rangatahi o te Tara Cultural Festival coming to Mercury Bay in 2019

By Jordan Gower

Tairua School hosted last year a new cultural festival, the “Ko te Rangatahi o te Tara Cultural Festival,” for students across the Coromandel Peninsula. On Friday 27 October this year, the school hosted a second, bigger version of the festival.

The festival will next year be hosted by Mercury Bay Area School.

Seventeen different Coromandel schools attended this year’s festival. Each school put together a presentation and the day was spent watching and learning about others’ culture. “It wasn’t about who was the best, there was no competition,” says MBAS Te Reo Māori teacher, Tamati Bryers. “Everyone was equal and just eager to learn about one another.”

The MBAS students’ performance was a compelling mixture of haka, waiata and famous prayers. “The performance lasted about 15 minutes in total,” says Tamati. “And I’m trying not to be biased here, but our students were definitely up there with the best. They were so loud and had so much enthusiasm. Everyone sat completely still to watch, they couldn’t look away.”

The highlight of the day for most people was the passing of the mauri from Tairua School to MBAS. Mauri translates to “life force” and when there is an important event, the mauri is transferred into an object. Whomever holds that object has authority over the event. The mauri for the Ko te Rangatahi o te Tara Cultural Festival is a beautiful wooden carving, with the host school’s name and corresponding year engraved on a plaque at the bottom.

“So, because we’re hosting the festival next year, Tairua School had to pass the mauri to us,” says Tamati. “The Tairua School girls did a karanga and one of our girls responded. John Wright [the MBAS principal] then walked onto the stage, followed by MBAS teachers and students and then parents as well. The reason we wanted everyone there to receive the mauri was because that made it belong to everyone. This festival is a community thing. Everyone is now responsible for what happens next year.

“So, as we all walked onto the stage, Tairua School started performing their school haka. I felt like we should do a haka as well, but I wasn’t sure when we should start. There was a moment when I got goosebumps and my hair stood up on end and I knew that was when we should begin. So, I led our students in a haka and the incredible thing was both us and Tairua School finished at exactly the same time. It was a special moment.”

MBAS is planning next year’s festival to be around the same time as the Tuia Te Pōwhiri commemorations.

“We have a large Polynesian culture rising here in Whitianga and at MBAS and we want to make that a part of next year’s festival too,” says Tamati. “We want to celebrate not just Māori culture, but all cultures prevalent in our school.”

Creating a performance for this year’s festival was not an easy task. “The performance was the result of about three years of learning,” says Tamati. “It took constant modification, it was always changing and perfecting, adding and adapting based on the students involved.”

Patricia Emia, another MBAS teacher, says the emotion involved in creating and learning about one another was palpable during this year’s festival. “The students’ pride showed,” she says. “It was really magic. It didn't matter that our kids didn’t have a proper kapa haka uniform - they wore their mana and everything else on the outside. We are so proud to have been a part of that feeling.”

Pictured are MBAS principal, John Wright, and student Tayejahn George-Waterhouse during the passing of the mauri during this year’s Ko te Rangatahi o te Tara Cultural Festival at Tairua School.



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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.