Roiana Pihama

Kapa Haka - Te Matatini 2019

Key Info

Waikato, Ngā Rauru

  • Bachelor of Science
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology

If you think being a young mum brings its challenges, try studying at university, working, and living the Kapa Haka life as well.

That’s the balancing act that Roiana (Waikato, Ngā Rauru) is successfully achieving. Her one-and-a-half year old daughter is definitely the priority. “She’s also my drive to do all of that. It sounds a bit cliched but it’s true. Before, I had her everything was a struggle, I felt obliged to do things, but now it’s not a chore.”

The 23-year-old is performing with Ngā Tumanako and this is her third Te Matatini.

She was raised in a Haka family, and she has always lived Haka through uncles and aunties. “I’d jump in their cars to go to any noho I could. I’d be at every regionals; babies, high schools and adults. It was my world. I fell asleep to Haka, even though they were really loud. I looked up to anyone doing Haka. Now I see little kids singing the words to Mōteatea they learnt when they were six months old. In summer you’re practising all weekend, every weekend. You have your moments, when you’re over it and don’t want to go to practice, but then you go and it just makes you happy.”

Roiana would watch Haka everyday if she could. “It gives meaning to my life, that’s for sure. If I didn’t have Haka, it would be similar to not being able to speak Māori. I wouldn’t know who I was. I wouldn’t know how to express or embrace things in te Ao Māori.”

There’s a big sense of competition and excitement running up to Te Matatini, but Roiana says it isn’t about where you’re placed. “It’s not about winning, although that would be great. It would be great to come first, second, third, or even in the top nine. It’s about heaps of things, like bonding. If you go to noho you get heaps of that. It’s whanaungatanga and kotahitanga. It’s all the build up to the competition that makes it for me. Standing on the stage and winning is a bonus, but it’s only small part of why I do it. Te Matatini is also just a small part of Kapa Haka. The real Kapa Haka is on the marae performing to your nannies or koro who are sick, or just to hiki te wairua.”

Who is your Kapa Haka idol?

Mahanga Pihama, Te Raina Pihama.

What is your favourite item of the bracket?


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

It starts with your mindset. If you believe you can’t do it, you can’t. Because I have to balance so many things in my life, I have to fully believe in myself, or I can’t juggle everything.  I’m not happy if I’m putting 50% into things, so it has to be all out.

How do you keep Haka-fit?

It’s not like your typical running or crossfit. You can go to the gym five days a week for months in a row, then you get to Haka and you’re dripping in sweat after one item that’s three minutes long. You have to draw on emotions as well as physicality. So if you’re performing about an issue that’s topical at the time, and you have to be angry, then you’re drawing on the emotion while also running around the stage being angry as well. For some people who watch Haka, it’s just a show. But when you’re doing it yourself, you actually feel it. You know what you’re talking about and you’re trying to bring those feelings to the surface.

Competing: Friday 22 February - 8th

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