Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Maori Philosophies and the Social Value of Community Sports Clubs: A Case Study from Kapa Haka

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Maori Philosophies and the Social Value of Community Sports Clubs: A Case Study from Kapa Haka

Article excerpt

Kapa haka is a unique Māori competitive performing arts and cultural practice (Sakamoto, 2012). It has an extensive lineage in the indigenous culture of Aotearoa [New Zealand]. Māori music historian Teurikore Biddle (2012, p.69) notes that modern kapa haka "echoes and reflects the traditional performances one might have witnessed in the old whare tapere [lit. 'house of entertainment/performance']." The meaning has evolved over time; 'kapa' [rank, row or group of performers] haka used to mean a group performing haka but it has now become a phrase synonymous with "Māori performing arts" (Papesch, 2015, p.22). The philosophies and guiding principles of kapa haka enable the facilitation of health and wellbeing, using a different approach to western traditions. This research aimed to examine the guiding principles and workings of a kapa haka group in Otautahi [Christchurch] and highlight any variations from or commonalities with a traditional western community sports club. The comparison between the two was deemed appropriate given that both share an emphasis on physicality and include a similar competitive structure. The research examined the philosophy behind kapa haka and the creation of 'community' within a kapa haka context. Although the first author is Pākehā [New Zealander of European descent], this study adopted a kaupapa Māori approach. This was primarily achieved by forefronting Māori knowledge and its potential for challenging dominant western practices, inverting the power balance and seeing the participants as experts and the researchers as non-experts, as well as following Māori cultural protocols throughout the research process (Walker, Eketone & Gibbs, 2006). While one of the authors is Māori and is a tikanga [culture] specialist, he lacked specific expertise in kapa haka, making all the researchers nonexperts in this particular area of research.

Worldwide, community sports clubs are experiencing a decline, with operational funds becoming increasingly difficult to source and membership numbers declining. Sport New Zealand (2013) proposes that the recent evolution of community sports clubs is heavily influenced by several factors including increased competition for members leading to smaller membership numbers and a decline in time and willingness from volunteers. In Otautahi, Aotearoa, this phenomenon was compounded by the devastating earthquakes of 2010/11, as the re-establishment of community sports clubs and membership retention proved to be exceedingly difficult. These earthquakes resulted in the loss of many recreational and community facilities, interrupting people's lives and affecting their ability to partake in leisure and sporting activities (Gainsford & Kerr, 2013).

Almost three years after the earthquakes, in November 2013, several experienced te reo [Māori language] teachers and seasoned kapa haka participants formed a new Kāi Tahu kapa haka group in Otautahi, named Te Pao a Tahu. One of the main motivations of the group was to further the use of te reo, in a Kāi Tahu [tribal grouping across most of the South Island] context and environment. The use of Kāi Tahu dialect and tikanga [protocols] was adopted and this was reflected in the composition and actions of the songs. The assertion of Kāi Tahutanga [Kāi Tahu epistemology] and dialect renders names like Aorangi [Mt. Cook], Moerangi and Wananga as Aoraki, Moeraki and Wanaka respectively.

Within a few short months, the unity of Te Pao a Tahu was evident, as they performed on stage in the regional kapa haka competition. This unknown group had no expectation of a placing, yet came third and qualified for the biennial national kapa haka competition (Te Matatini), hosted in Ötautahi in March 2015. This research examined the philosophies and principles underpinning the workings of Te Pao a Tahu in comparison with a traditional western community sports club.

Literature review

A range of researchers have examined 'haka' (for example: Gardiner, 2001, 2007; Jackson & Hokowhitu, 2002; Kāretu, 1993; Matthews, 2004; Murray, 2000), which is only one dimension of kapa haka. …

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