Keeping karanga alive in Te Tairāwhiti

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Women on the East Coast say the ancient arts of Karanga and Pao are in rapid decline. Veteran kapa haka performers on the East Coast are learning tricks of the trade from two Tairawhiti haka maidens, Kuini Moehau Reedy and Tangiwai Ria.

Kuini Moehau Reedy (Ngāti Porou) says, “Sometimes our marae are lonely and we're left looking for those who can call, that's why they've come here.”

Pele Kupenga-Keefe from Te Aitanga-a-Mate says, “When I was growing up there were plenty of speakers and kaikaranga, and a quality breed, now you look for kaikaranga and there's no one."

Aubrey Ria from Ngāti Porou and the many other tribes of the East Coast says, “My grandmother did karanga, she died some years ago, I had thought I would be able to learn from her when I was ready but she's no longer here."

Tewahuia Pihema from Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki says, “Our elderly women are aging. Who will support them? The time has come for our generation to do so."

With Karanga, the traditional call by females, the students are being encouraged to embody the divine spiritual life force.

“We are the gateway to the spiritual realm, we can draw them up, pull them near, and gather them, to embody that tradition of ancient origin handed down by our ancestors," says Kuini Moehau Reedy.

“It's great listening to Nanny Kuini explaining how to weave and grasp concepts from the environment, from within you, from your own source of divine power as a woman, from the earth,” says Aubrey Ria.

“To explore the depths of karanga, the spring of mourning, there is knowledge that I haven't yet seen or heard,” says Huia Pihema.

When it comes to Pao, often practiced as an invitation for guests to dine, sometimes a little charm is what's needed.

“They are dual art forms, the spirit is lifted and we're more relaxed because sometimes it's quite deep delving into the spiritual realm,” says Kuini Moehau Reedy.

The workshop is being conducted through the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa level 3 certificate in Tikanga Māori.

“The goal is for it to flourish throughout the East Coast,” says Pele Kupenga-Keefe.

“There are many things we can do as women but this is to draw the spirit of the gods into us,” says Kuini Moehau Reedy.

She hopes that this will enable the women here to stand empowered on their own marae and keep these traditions alive.