Waka Ama: Te whakataetae-a-kura

Living in Rotorua, there are so many sporting events happening all the time, it can be hard to keep up! One event that I always look forward to is the Secondary Schools Waka Ama Nationals at Lake Tikitapu. Thankfully, as a whānau we still have tamariki who are competing for Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamatā (TKKM o Ruamatā), tamariki of whānau around the motu there to race for their kura/schools, and our whānau still have a few more to come through. We are so fortunate as te iwi Māori to have events that multiple generations can enjoy all at once. It’s the same feeling I got from going to the Māori Touch Nationals when growing up, the Polyfest held in Auckland every year, and of course, Te Matatini. 

I took my pōtiki, Te Hiringa, with me to watch his cousin paddle for TKKM o Ruamatā. It was freezing, but so amazing to watch rangatahi in their element. We didn’t even really watch the races, I was too busy admiring the continued ownership that rangatahi, taiohi mā have over their places of play and whānautanga. 

Although we are watching our rangatahi racing to win medals, we all know there is so much more that makes events like this so special. Namely, the massive representation of Kura Kaupapa Māori, Wharekura, Kura-ā-Iwi, and Rūmaki Reo.  Hearing their names being called out, kura after kura. Hearing waiata, haka tautoko and te reo Māori everywhere. Although this event is for all schools, the representation of rangatahi Māori is so high, the whakapapa connection to this established sport is living! he māori noa te Ao Māori! 

When Te Hiringa and I left the gates to go home, he asked me, “Māmā, he aha ai ka tuku aroha tētahi ki tētahi?” (why is everyone being kind to everyone?). Pātai pai, my boy! Well, let’s dive into that pātai. At the lake, Māori wardens were looking after traffic and car park control, while making sure our mokopuna didn’t run out onto the road. Older teenagers were climbing up the playground next to 4 year olds, making sure they were ok. A group of rangatahi from two different schools were playing ‘Pūkana’ in the playground LOUD AS. Boys from a school in Auckland rocked Unicorn oodies, pink shirts and blonde hair. Just like at the marae, shoes (well, mostly Crocs actually), were all over the front of the team gazebo. Boys were cooking their kai on the bbq in between races. Nannies were running around after their moko while organising their teams. Kids warming up by playing ‘held’. Everyone makes way for everyone. All volunteers say “kia ora” as you pass them. When leaving the gate in our waka, drivers indicate to each other ‘nah you, you go’. Hoi anō, ko tāku whakautu ki a Te Hiringa i tōnā pātai mai –  “He ao Māori tērā e tāku tama, he Ao Māori.”

Nā reira, he mihi nui ki ngā kaiwhakahaere nō Waka Ama NZ, ngā kaitautoko, kaihāpai, ngā kura o te motu, ngā whānau tautoko, me ngā kaihoe hoki. Hoe tonu e tātou mā. 

Nā Renei Ngawati 

Image from wakaamanz 

Renei Ngawati

Renei comes from a health promotion and Māori development background as a former lecturer in Māori Health at AUT University. He uri ia no Ngāti Hine me Ngāti Porou.