Renee took to the stage with mana
Renee Marriott, a 42-year-old woman often isolated from the community because of her disability, reduced her mother to tears when she took to the stage in Ngā Tāngata Manawa o te Tai-tonga Kapa Haka Festival in Christchurch.
“This is the first time in 42 years that we have been able to celebrate Renee for Renee when we came and watched her perform,” says her Mum Tracey Waho-Blayney. “She has the mana to be able to stand in her own space. I came away with tears. I just don’t know how to explain it.”
Tracey says Renee has partial trisomy 22, is non-verbal and has often been withdrawn from life. “Because of her disabilities, it’s not easy for Renee to get involved.” But no longer.
“I have seen a real change in Renee’s outlook on life. Since she has been involved in kapa haka, she is well aware of her surroundings and the people around her. It’s connected whānau as we learn the waiata and karakia together. I just know she has grown so much because she has got to have all these experiences.”
Kapa haka teams wowed audiences across the country at this year’s IDEA Services four regional kapa haka festivals and came home with a huge sense of pride and connection.
Thirty roopu were in training for months, polishing their moves and their voices to perform. For the performers – kiritaki supported by IHC and IDEA Services – this was a chance to connect and celebrate Te Ao Māori – the Māori world.
First up was the Ngā Tāngata Manawa o te Tai-tonga festival in Christchurch in September. This was the first time we had held a kapa festival in the South Island and teams came from Canterbury, South Canterbury, Southland, Otago, Nelson and Marlborough, and one from another provider Te Roopu Tuhono (Christchurch).
Next up was the Te Wakatini festival in Hamilton on 11 October, the Te Hoenga Waka festival in Takapuna, Auckland on 26 October and finally the Te Ngākautaki o ngā Kāhuimaunga festival in Whanganui on 7 November.
IDEA Services Kaitakawaenga Taki Peeke says the kapa haka events were all part of the build-up to a national kapa haka festival in 2024.
“These festivals are about Māori culture. That is what we have seen from Day One. When we see that performer on stage, we see them sparkle. People on stage aren’t service users; people on stage aren’t kiritaki. They are performers.”
He told the audience at Takapuna’s Bruce Mason Centre that they had come a long way from the first festival in 2017 at a hall in Kelston. In 2019 the festival was hosted in Hamilton, but numbers have grown, and Hamilton held its own festival this year.
Taki says kapa haka is the vehicle that carries the aspirations of Māori with intellectual disabilities to be included in their culture. “People are born with very exceptional talents that come in different sizes and different packages. This is a challenge to all our communities to accept all people.”
IDEA Services Northern Regional Manager Vonny Davis paid tribute to Taki for his commitment to kiritaki. To mark his departure from IDEA Services after 26 years he was presented with a toko toko (talking stick) by artist Bernard Makorare.
Georgie Meadows, Chair of the IDEA Services Southern Regional Māori Advisory Group, says while the Christchurch event was a huge life experience for those participating, “it’s not just getting together and singing songs”. It is part of the organisation’s Māori strategy to provide bicultural training for staff and upskilling for everyone in basic te reo Māori pronunciation and tikanga.
“Upskilling the staff at the same time is what enables the kiritaki to keep on learning,” she says.
The Christchurch hosts, the Otautahi roopu, were first onto the stage at the Aurora Centre. Local organiser Renee Davis, a Service Manager for IDEA Services, says Renee Marriott enjoys it so much she does not want to let go of the poi or the tītī (the long sticks used in the tītī tōrea song E Papa Waiari).
Caption: Renee Marriott of the Otautahi roopu in Christchurch drew the eyes of the audience in her striking whānau korowai.