Men at Northland Region Corrections Facility perform in the interprison kapa haka competition. Judges at Whakataetae Kapa Haka 2021 have been impressed by the standard of performance at Northland Region Corrections Facility. The interprison kapa haka competion is part way through and began in the South Island on 12 July.

Judges and brothers Tāpeta and Wiremu Wehi, who run the Haka Experience (a Māori performing arts troupe offering authentic Māori cultural experiences) have enjoyed seeing performers connect with the art form.

“It’s been a terrific journey over the past few weeks travelling to different prisons and seeing the impact haka has had," says Tāpeta.

“Bringing kapa haka into these whare is a way for these men and women to express who they are, where they’re from and who they belong to.”

The right for people in prison to access culture forms a vital part of our Hōkai Rangi strategy. The impact of this is being felt with staff noticing a drop in violence in some units when men began training for the competition.

Tāpeta sees the influence haka can have first-hand. “We’re using haka as a vehicle to teach language, tikanga Māori, and Māori history, but in a fun and engaging way.”

Wiremu says it’s the gentler side of the performances that he’s been most impressed with. “It’s the rongo (peace), the peaceful stuff I have enjoyed with the men. They’re showing aroha and smiling.”

Tāpeta agrees. “We’re starting to see tough gang members in these places show another side. It’s beautiful to see our men smiling enjoying this and showing that genuine soft side,” he says.

Joby Hopa has been tutoring the men in NRCF for two months to get them ready for the competition.

“It’s only been eight weeks - from nothing to seven performance items. They’ve had to be disciplined and work together,” Joby says.

Our competition has been profiled in local media as the competition travels to each site:

Read Newshub's story: Prisoners spend months rehearsing for nationwide kapa haka competition

NZ Herald's story: Hawke's Bay Regional prisoners impress judges with kapa haka performance