More than fifty Māori performing artists stepped into their spotlight following a four-week intensive mentoring programme for the Waikato called Ngahau e Whā.
The showcase, held on 13 September at the Meteor Theatre Hamilton, capped the pilot year of the arts programme run by Creative Waikato.
Ranging from seven to twenty-three years old, performers from pockets of the region developed their talent in hip hop music, street dance, drama, and ngā mahi a rēhia.
The four-weeks leading up to the showcase gave taiohi (young people) a chance to develop their skills in performing arts under the mentorship of local experts.
For many, this was both their first live performance and their first interaction with the artform being taught.
Project leader, Era Peihopa says COVID-19 has been a spanner in the works for the kaupapa which aimed to give young people an opportunity to boost their confidence and get spirits up post-lockdown.
“Taiohi did an amazing job prepping in their hometowns over the mentoring month.
They excelled beyond expectation on stage and showed true strength and resilience during what has been unstable and unprecidented times,” she says.
“Taiohi were empowered with high-quality arts experiences in their neighbourhoods by connecting them with regional arts leaders.
“At a glance it could look like a polished performance is the overall outcome of the project, but the process has far deeper impacts than what is displayed on stage,” says Peihopa.
Project Coordinator, Michael Moore, says, “Several rangatahi kaupapa have been cancelled throughout the year due to COVID-19 like Kapa Haka, School Ball’s and Ngā Manu Kōrero.
“They’ve had to miss out on so much already so we were stoked this could go ahead even if we did have to make some tweaks here and there.
“There is so much talent in the Waikato and this [programme] gives them a chance to step into their spotlight and develop in a collaborative way learning how to express themselves with their words, voices and movements which we know to be healing,” says Moore.
COVID-19 audience restrictions meant whānau and supporters were able to see their tamaiti through a livestream on the Ngahau e Whā Facebook page.
The name of the kaupapa nods to how the programme reaches out to the four corners of the Waikato to grow the pūkenga (skill) of rangatahi.
Nga hau e whā literally translates to ‘the four winds,’ while ngahau also means entertain.
A group of rangatahi from Huntly, Ngaruawahia and Te Kauwhata were mentored in street dance under the guidance of Logan Clendon and Aniwa Haitana.
Similarly, students from Paeroa were trained in drama by mentors Waimihi Hotere and Olivia Violet Robinson. A second drama group in Te Kauwhata was run by Max Palamo and Theo Palamo.
Students from Thames were trained in MC rapping by Ngakoma Conner, and a Kirikiriroa rōpū were mentored in ngā mahi ā rēhia by Maria Huata, Te Wairere Ngaia, and Hamuera Pugh.
“It’s been incredible to see how our mentors have helped our young people develop in the art forms they’ve been learning,” says Moore.
“From week one until now, I’ve seen the performers really pick up in their confidence and soft skills which is a natural result of having such brilliant mentors.
“It’s been a privilege to work with those mentors and it’s been even more of a privilege to see our young people grow in the arts,” he says.
Ngahau e Whā was funded by Creative New Zealand, Te Puni Kokiri and the Len Reynolds Trust.