FRIDAY 24th FEBRUARY, 2023
Te Matatini inspires whānau to follow their dreams
A young Māori woman from the Hokianga is paving the way for her whānau to follow their dreams after discovering her dream job is in kapa haka.
Ruiamai Harris, 20, of Ngāpuhi, Te Arawa and Tūhoe, is Kapa Haka administrator for Te Matatini, a role she took on last year after completing an internship thanks to funding from the Government’s Mātauranga Māori Te Awe Kōtuku Fund – which was set up post-Covid to support iwi, hapū, whānau and Māori communities to protect Māori knowledge and develop skills and employment pathways in the cultural sector for Māori.
Miss Harris is the key support contact for Te Matatini performers and judges at the Herenga Waka Herenga Tangata Festival at Ngā Ana Wai Eden Park in Tāmaki Makaurau this week.
“What I enjoy the most is meeting people and talking to them. My main role is to be the key person for all our kapa (group) and judges. So, getting to know them is so rewarding. It keeps me here and enables me to soak up their passion for kapa haka – it’s inspiring. I love it,” she says.
She thanks her whānau in the Hokianga for encouraging her to apply for her dream job. Now she’s returning the favour.
“A lot of the jobs they take on are focussed on paying the bills. I try and inspire them now to do what they did for me and consider what skills they have and what they enjoy doing by applying for jobs they’d love and would get paid to do. I hope my progress can be an example for them to follow,” she says.
In the lead up to the Festival week, an average day for Miss Harris was managing inquiries from judges or kapa (groups) and organising wānanga (workshops).
She’s in awe of the opportunity to work closely with kapa stars and renowned judges.
“Working with them has helped me come out of my shell. I have to take a moment because I’m like wow, I’m talking to prominent people in te ao Māori who have done a lot in their lives. Kapa performers are just so hard-case and your typical whanaunga (relative). And the judges are like one of your grandparents. All of them are cool to work with,” says Miss Harris.
She says the energy and synchronisation of performances on stage match the spirit of what happens behind the scenes.
“The kapa on stage are well-coordinated – like a whānau. Likewise, we in the engine room operate like a whānau. Our mahi is coordinated between us and if someone needs help, another is there to awhi (help). It’s a testament to our tikanga Māori and the culture of Te Matatini,” she says.
Providing internships to rangatahi Māori is a key focus in Te Matatini’s 10-year Strategic Plan, Te Pītau Whakarei, which aims to prepare youth members for tomorrow’s challenges, while sustaining a strong cultural identity that adds value to society.