Ngarangi Stewart

Kapa Haka

Key Info

Te Whānau a Apanui, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Awa, Ngapuhi

  • Bachelor of Communication Studies
  • Public Relations
  • Political Science
  • Te Matatini 2019

Ngarangi’s key training tip for Kapa Haka is take your poi everywhere you go, because you just never know when the urge to practise will hit you.

Ngarangi (Te Whānau a Apanui, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Awa, Ngapuhi) is 18 and performs with Tauira Mai Tawhiti. She was Head Girl at Ōpōtiki College and now she’s a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar at University of Waikato.

She didn’t grow up with Kapa Haka;  her first time standing was at the Secondary Regional stage in Whakatane when she was 15. “I went to a mainstream college and I felt like I was losing touch with my Māoritanga, so I thought why not do Kapa Haka so I can keep that connection strong. I spent my junior years lost at a mainstream school, and I forced myself to go to Kapa Haka, then I didn’t want to stop. I just love it.”

While she’s a relative newcomer to Kapa Haka, she isn’t to Waka Ama. She basically grew up on the water and has been competing at the National Champs.  “They go together, I put them both on a pedestal.”

Home for Ngarangi is the East Coast, about 30 minutes from Te Kaha. “That’s my slice of paradise. We’ve got the ocean right there and the bush right behind us.” How is she going to find coming to the big smoke, starting at University of Waikato? “I have heaps of whānau at Waikato, so it will be easy. And I’m going to keep doing Kapa Haka.”

Her first memory of Kapa Haka is at Te Kaha, watching her dad perform with Tauira Mai Tawhiti, on the beach with the ocean behind them. “I was running around watching them, and I can still see it, the women’s piupiu, how they moved. It was amazing.”

Ngarangi’s got some big ambitions, and not just on the stage and water. She wants her BCS in Politics and Public Relations to be the start of a political career. Her goal is to become an MP, minister of education, and ultimately prime minister. She wants to restructure the education system, for Māori kids but also to make it better for everyone. The question of how old she thinks she’ll be when she becomes PM, elicits a remarkably politician-like response. “We’ll see, I’ll take it day by day.”

Who is your Kapa Haka idol?

Erena Koopu, Anameka Paenga.

What is your favourite item of the bracket?

Mōteatea, because I just love how it’s freestyle, and you can do what you want to do. You can pūkana whenever you like, and you can make it your own.

How do you manage both Waka Ama and Kapa Haka?

If the passion is there you can do anything. Also I have my mum to thank, because she takes me everywhere. (Thanks mum!)

Advice for newbies starting Kapa haka?

Just go for it. You end up loving it, and it’s another way of learning your own history and stories. It can be a vessel to help navigate your life. You learn discipline and  mental toughness, and you get fit too!

How do you keep Haka-fit?

There’s a difference between being Haka-fit and Ama-fit. You can run 10km non-stop and be that fit, but Haka-fit is something quite different. For my Kapa, we’re always on the floor for poi. And it’s slow poi, so you have to be able to sing from your stomach and do all these low, fast, downward movements. With Waka Ama, when you’re paddling you just have to keep going. You can’t hide on the waka, you can’t just walk away. So that is the same as Kapa Haka, there is no hiding on that 20-by-20 stage in front of a massive crowd.

Competing: Saturday 23 February - 4th.

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