A new process for handing over the spiritual component of Te Matatini – the premier event for Māori performing arts – has been enacted at Rātana Pā.
Iwi leaders and kapa haka of Taranaki, Whanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitīkei gathered to receive the mouri, or life force, in a five-hour ceremony at the weekend, the first of its kind in the kapa haka festival’s 50-year history.
In the form of a red stone, the mouri is recognised by iwi Māori as a spiritual principle vital to the success of each Te Matatini. It was handed over to the next host region by Te Matatini leadership and this year’s hosts, Ngāti Whātua Orākei.
In 2025, for the first time in more than 30 years, Te Matatini returns to the Kāhui Maunga region (Taranaki, Whanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitīkei, formerly known collectively as Aotea rohe). The region last hosted the biennial event in Hāwera in 1994.
Te Reanga Mōrehu o Rātana Trust chairman Kamaka Manuel says Saturday’s ceremony set a new tikanga.
“This is the very first time since the inception of Te Matatini that the mouri has been handed over in this way. It’s about giving mana and integrity to the process.”
Manuel said receiving the mouri as the first stage of hosting Te Matatini warranted rolling out the red carpet.
“For Te Kāhui Maunga rohe, as the 2025 hosts, how we accept the mouri provides that ideal platform for the rest of the planning and organisation going forward.”
Until this year, the handover of the mouri to the next region has been perfunctory, taking place immediately after the announcement of the winners of Te Matatini.
“It has been a very watered-down process with the mouri handed over, taken back to a hotel or put on buses or in someone’s car, and taken back to the host region that way.
“This time there was a great deal of thought. The discussion around giving that whole process the mana it deserves first started largely with Ngāti Whātua Orākei and the Matatini komiti,” Manuel said.
“Immediately we were alerted to the whakaaro, tautoko kaha mātou. We wanted to set a precedent for the way that this happens, knowing that this is the very first time the mouri has been handed over in such a process.”
Led onto the marae by Rātana brass band Ngā Reo, around 100 manuhiri from Te Matatini leadership and Ngāti Whātua Orākei were subject to a full challenge by three kaiwero, among them Whanganui iwi leader Gerrard Albert. They were then welcomed by some 300 kaihaka and leaders of Te Kāhui Maunga rohe, including Jamie Tuuta, Ruakere Hond, Ruka Broughton and Kahurangi Simon.
The mouri, in a glass case with its larger protector stone, was carried onto the marae ātea and placed for everyone to see as the ceremony took place. An additional process followed to transfer the mouri to one of the areas of Te Manuao, a part of the pā called Te Aroha.
“Te Aroha is the whare of the tumuaki – a significant place for our hāhi,” Manuel said. “A lot of history has come out of those four walls. Inside Te Aroha are the photos of all our previous tumuaki, including Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana. It’s a very significant place, and even that process meant a discussion with the necessary komiti hāhi at Rātana.”
Pou Tikanga for Te Kāhui Maunga rohe, Rauru Broughton, said Saturday’s events represented a milestone for Te Matatini and brought appropriate focus to the mouri.
“This signifies something unique, because we’re using tikanga, kawa, our traditions and our customs to endorse and to acknowledge the Matatini itself. It’s a new tikanga based on old tikanga. This is how the mouri should be received. This is how it should be escorted from one iwi to another.
“It’s about connection and whanaungatanga, and it’s beautiful in the sense of bringing everyone together.”
Manuel said the coming together of Te Kāhui Maunga rohe to prepare for Saturday’s events was also significant and a forerunner to the collaboration required for 2025.
“For us as the next hosts, it began on Friday. The coming together of the rohe and all of the kapa from Te Kāhui Maunga to prepare for Saturday was really something special.”
Planning and rehearsals went late into the night.
“Saturday was just the icing on the cake – an absolutely beautiful day and a moving experience for all.
“The feeling was one of te koanga ngākau, a feeling of te kotahitanga, and we were extremely happy.”
The exact venue for Te Matatini 2025 has yet to be decided.
Te Matatini Herenga Waka Herenga Tangata 2023 at Ngā Ana Wai (Eden Park) in Auckland showcased nearly 1600 performers and was watched on livestream or television by almost a million people with about 100,000 attending in person.
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