An unsung hero of Te Arawa Kapa Haka

By Taroi Black

After entertaining millions of tourists over six decades in Rotorua, Josie Scott says she treats every performance like it was her first. As part of our Te Kāea Summer Series, 'He Momo', we kick off in the famous Ohinemutu Pā where she defines the true beauty of a Te Arawa woman.

At 71 years strong Josie Scott of Ngāti Whakaue is a haka exponent in her own right. While she hasn’t performed in any kapa haka competitions, she has mastered the business of kapa haka on a platform within her own rohe – performing for millions of tourists from around the world over six decades.

Josie Scott says, “I did face every show as if it was my first. Those people are here for the first time, they don’t want to see a tired old group because they’re sick and tired of doing it (haka) day after, day after.”

And you can go ask anyone of the performers here, that would be my biggest gripe when we’ve come off. Hey, you were hopeless because this is the attitude you’re showing on stage! (We) always bring up that you’re getting paid to perform to these people and you’re not achieving.”     

Affectionately known as Aunty Josie, she has been an advocate for turning traditional dance into a modern day tourism business. In our Te Kāea Summer Feature, ‘He Momo’, Aunty Josie gave our cameras an exclusive opportunity to film a 3 metre photograph from when she was just 13 years old. The photograph also includes Te Arawa figures such as Maureen Waaka and Hapi Winiata.

Winiata mentored her and many others in Rotorua, who eventually became the leaders of every hotel in Rotorua at one time she says.

Aunty Josie says, “Our people need to be recognised as professionals in the industry rather than performers who entertain.”

Although retired from show business, on rare occasions she will jump on stage at the Matariki concerts hosted by the Novotel Hotel, Rotorua.