The frantic phone calls to organise a homecoming celebration started minutes after Nga Tūmanako were announced the champions of New Zealand's biggest kapa haka festival in Wellington on Sunday evening. Within 24 hours, a feast for 400 people was laid out at West Auckland’s Hoani Waititi Marae. As the shadows lengthened across the carefully mown lawn, the singing inside the wharekai reached a crescendo. Last night’s welcome for the first-time Te Matatini winners at their homebase was an evening of ceremony, respect and voices raised in jubilation.
Founding member of Ngā Tūmanako, Te Arahi Maipi, told VICE the winning 25-minute performance gave the group a national platform to talk about the importance of te reo Māori. “The main theme was a challenge for Ngā Tūmanako to all of our generation who grew up with te reo Māori to make sure that we speak te reo Māori to our kids,” said Maipi. “We were the first lot that came through kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa so we were fortunate what our parents and grandparents did for us. Now it’s about making sure that we carry that on and don’t get lazy and that we treat our language with the type of respect that it’s due.”
We were there to capture the pōwhiri as the triumphant Ngā Tūmanko brought the trophy home.