Fourth generation of Te Rōpū Manutaki heads to Te Matatini - Feature

By Heeni Brown

Former national champions, Te Rōpū Manutaki, are heading into their 4th generation of performers come the national Te Matatini festival in Christchurch.

With its founder Dr Pita Sharples standing down as leader, replacing him is his son who has the responsibility of leading his 47 year legacy. 

Heeni Brown spoke to the current tutor for Te Rōpū Manutaki, Te Hira Paenga.

“I am Te Hira Paenga. My father is Ngāti Porou, my mother is Ngāpuhi. I am a tutor of Te Rōpū Manutaki.  Last year our leader Pāpā Pita was concerned with standing down from his ministerial position with the Māori Party, and our senior, Paora, was organising a major performing arts project which began in China.  So he looked to me and at my year's work load, and I stepped up to take on the job.

Te Rōpū Manutaki is synonymous with Hoani Waititi Marae, and on the marae Te Rōpū Manutaki holds senior rank.  Most of the community here is from Northland and the East Coast and they tasked Pāpā Pita and my Aunty Aroha with leading Te Rōpū Manutaki.

We've been active for 47 years. The children in the group at the time of its inception now have children themselves.  We're now into our fourth generation of performers and the world and the language has changed, so performance has changed too.

I asked myself, is it time for urban Māori to focus on our affiliation to this whare, this marae?  Or is it time we focussed on our own tribal affiliations and practices?  Pāpā Pita had his style, so too Paora.  Here I am, following them, trying to engage a generation that isn't familiar with Te Rōpū Manutaki's legacy.

A major challenge has been gaining the trust of my parents' generation.  They like the traditional skirt and the traditional style of poi and weaponry.  That's all very fine and well, but for the youth who have their own ambitions, it's perhaps been a fault of their own that they've been so spoilt with a wealth of enjoyable kapa haka.  So it's been important to teach them to be humble, to be respectful and remember that the kapa haka legacy they carry, and I speak of the youth here at Hoani Waititi Marae, was founded in Te Rōpū Manutaki.   

Manutaki will live on in the projects we have completed, in our kōhanga reo, in our kura, in our secondary school, in our school of traditional martial arts and in the activities on this marae.  When visitors come here they are greeted by Te Rōpū Manutaki, when the dead are brought to lay here they are welcomed by Te Rōpū Manutaki.  So Te Rōpū Manutaki represents here on the marae and represents on the Matatini stage.”