#MataHaka - KARAKIA

By Te Ao Māori News

Many karakia have been performed on the Matatini stage since its inception, however, they've risen in prominence as groups get more creative.  

Te Kāea spoke to Ora Kihi, of defending champions Whāngārā Mai Tawhiti, about the edge that karakia brought to their winning performance in 2017.

Ora says, "Karakia (prayer) is important to our people, water is also significant to us in Waikato.

"In times of need, we turn to God and go to the water to pray.  Karakia prepares us for everything in this world."

He adds, "The real meaning of karakia is to prepare someone for what needs to be done, for various purposes to keep them safe and well."

It was when he travelled to the East Coast and came under the tutelage of haka exponent Derek Lardelli that Ora says he was introduced to another world of karakia.

"He was the person who opened my eyes to being free from the restrictions of tapu allowing us to enter that realm, explore and almost reform it.

"However, there are some boundaries you can't cross and those remain sacred but there are some you can enter."

Ora says, "At Whāngārā Mai Tawhiti, you learn the karakia of Paikea.  It is performed first as a karakia and then it transforms into a mōteatea, then it becomes a haka, and then a song but at its very core, it is a karakia."

"I agree completely with karakia being performed on the stage because it is a Māori practice. If we couldn't do it on stage then we wouldn't be able to do the karanga, the wero or the rituals to prepare our weapons and the water, all of those aspects.

"When Whāngārā performed at Te Matatini, we heard the protests and disputes the hosting tribe were facing regarding their own water.  There were off-shore companies and tourists trying to take the water. Because of this, we changed our approach and featured the water. It was poured into our hands, then over our bodies, then we prayed.  

"This was to show the hosts that we, as Whāngārā, support their cause.  While preparing the men for the haka, this action also symbolised the people, the leaders and ancestors of the hosts in going to battle against the local council.  Because of this, you see both female and male coming together bound by water. Water is what binds us together.

"The karakia and the words we use now, we used words to support and guide what we do on stage.  I really believe in using karakia on the stage but it must always relate to a purpose."