Mahara Hepi

Kapa Haka

Key Info

Waikato-Maniapoto, Ngai Tahu, Te Ati Hau Nui A Pāpārangi, Tuwharetoa

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Master of Arts
  • Anthropology
  • Te Matatini 2019

For Mahara, the University of Waikato is a hub for all things Kapa Haka.

The 25-year-old is the the Co-President of Te Waiora o Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, and heading into her third Te Matatini performing with Te Pou o Mangataawhiri.

Mahara (Waikato-Maniapoto, Ngai Tahu, Te Ati Hau Nui A Pāpārangi, Tuwharetoa) says the meaning of Kapa Haka in her life has changed as she’s grown older. “As a child it was just something I did because it was fun and my family did it. Because my parents don’t have reo, it was their way of encouraging us to learn. And it is an easy way to pick up te Ao Māori, and the most traditional way as well. There has almost never been a time when it wasn’t part of my life; it is who I am. For a while in my high school years it wasn’t around, because I was busy being ‘cool’ and doing my own thing. Otherwise it’s been my bread and butter.”

There are two really strong childhood memories for Mahara. “My brothers had Kapa Haka videos, and they thrashed them over and over and over on the VHS. The other is a really vivid image in my mind of watching my aunties and uncles have a jam at the sports club my dad was involved with in Ōtautahi.”

Who is your Kapa Haka idol?

Koka TA, Rangimarie Mahuta, Shelley Pihama.

What is your favourite item of the bracket?

Mōteatea. It’s where I learn the most. Whatever the kaupapa is, it’s all about finding your own way to connect to it, make it relevant for yourself. I think it’s the best expression of a good kaihaka, how they perform the Mōteatea, and how well they know the kaupapa, or how good they are at faking it.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a new student coming to UoW who does Kapa Haka?

University of Waikato is  a hub for young Māori, especially those who are passionate, and a lot of those passionate young Māori are involved in Kapa Haka in some way – whether it be at the pā, competitively, or through their iwi. So this is a hub for kaihaka. If you want to go somewhere that Kapa Haka is alive, and thrives, then you come to Waikato. There are so many influential people who lecture at Waikato, or have lectured there in the past, who contribute hugely to what we see and understand as Kapa Haka now.  That basket of knowledge is right in your hand at Waikato.  So if I could give advice to someone it would be to capitalise on that, and take all of the opportunities right in front of you.

How do you keep Haka-fit?

Haka-fit is 50% physical and 50% mental. The mental fitness is the hardest, particularly in the final few weeks leading up to the competition when it gets to the crunch. You are physically drained so your mental fitness has to kick in and show you where to use your energy. It’s not tricking yourself, it’s more keeping yourself positive. When we are tired it is that mental fitness that gets us through. There’s a lot of reflection, and checking that whatever you are saying on the floor is necessary and won’t negatively affect other people’s spiritual and mental wellbeing. It’s about surrounding yourself with positive people, and being that person for others. Being an ‘energy giver’ and not a leech.

Competing: Saturday 23rd February - 4:18pm

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