A passion for Māori performing arts and giving back to their culture led two wahine (women) to volunteer at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility.
Ariana Williams has been helping Letitia Taikto with the kapa haka programme for about a year as Letitia, who started six months prior, needed an assistant.
“I’ve always been passionate about giving back to our Māori people,” says Ariana. “It was Letitia and her passion for supporting our wahine in prison that led me to volunteer in the Mirimiri Te Aroha unit.”
The pair encourage the women to engage in and learn Te Ao Māori customs, language and culture. Up to 22 women attend the weekly sessions.
“We mostly use Māori performing arts to deliver a basic overview of Māori culture,” says Letitia. “This involves teaching kapa haka, which includes learning and understanding Māori waiata (song), haka, poi and waiata-a-ringa (action songs). We also incorporate mihimihi (speech) and basic te reo Māori.”
“Mirimiri Te Aroha wahine are often asked to perform kapa haka for guests, at events and for competitions. We support them in the lead up to each performance, discuss their expectations and goals, confer, and design timetables and weekly targets,” says Letitia.
“The wahine have grown their confidence in public speaking, performing and leadership throughout the year. Many now follow through with what they say they’re going to do and are a role model to others inside and outside the unit.”