A spirited day of Maori culture and performing arts at the Polynesian Cultural Center's (PCC) annual Te Manahua Maori Cultural Arts Festival on Sunday marked the beginning of a special weeklong celebration for the center’s 50th anniversary.
Groups from across the state and as far as New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and Utah captivated the enthusiastic crowd at PCC’s Pacific Theater with traditional Maori kapa haka (performing arts), featuring a large group competition and small group competitions in Haka Hard and Poi-e.
“I’d like to commend all of this year’s participants for their tremendous efforts,” said Seamus Fitzgerald, Aotearoa village manager, in a written release. “It’s wonderful to see our (Maori) people come together from all over the world to celebrate and perpetuate the Maori heritage.”
Six small groups demonstrated their best skills in the Poi-e and Haka Hard categories, with Kahurangi and Te Hokioi earning the highest combined scores in each category, respectively.
In the Haka Hard competition, the men of Te Hokioi dressed in Rugby uniforms earned first place for their amusing performance that captured the competitive spirit of the dance. Traditional Maori Haka were performed by war-parties in training and prior to battle and meant to record histories.
The Competition Group category featured two teams from opposite sides of the equator, with New Zealand’s own Te Awhiorangi edging out Te Tini-a-Maui from Vancouver, B.C. to take the top honor. The group performances incorporate several different elements of Maori kapa haka including Poi-e and Haka in a longer format presentation.
A panel of expert judges from New Zealand evaluated each group on several criteria including execution, motions, stage personality, creativity, and choreography.
Guests were also treated to special exhibition performances throughout the day including a powerful performance from a New Zealand national contending group, Nga uri o te Whanoa Te Matatini. The group’s strong soulful voices and dynamic choreography were in perfect harmony throughout their presentation, which featured a mix of contemporary with traditional Maori performing arts.
A second exhibition by Te Arohanui Maori Company, including 14 members of the original group that performed during the Center’s grand opening ceremony on October 12, 1963, set the stage for PCC’s Golden Anniversary Celebration.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary, the PCC is hosting special events and activities at the Center and in Laie from now through September 7, including free nightly concerts starting at 5:45 p.m. and featuring Hi‘ikua (Sept. 4), PCC Alumni Brass Band (Sept. 5) and Irie Love (Sept. 7). The concerts are open to the pubic and will be held at the entrance of the center.