Ka Mau Te Wehi: Taking Kapa Haka to the World
KA MAU TE WEHI provides a unique insight through the biography of Bub and Nen into the development and promotion of kapa haka throughout NZ and in particular primary and secondary schools.
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Description of this Book
By Bradford Haami
Ngapo and Pimia Wehi, affectionately known as Bub and Nen, have achieved what no other partnership has accomplished in a lifetime of kapa haka - Maori performing arts. With over a century of combined experience in Maori song and dance, leading teams and teaching, they are recognised as New Zealand's foremost leaders in this ever-expanding arena, having won six national kapa haka championships, twice as the leaders of The Waihirere Maori Club (1965-1981) and four times with Auckland kapa haka team Te Waka Huia (1981-2011). They have taken their brand of haka to the world performing everywhere from Broadway to Korea and from Fiji to the Taj Mahal. Their story has been written in a new biography titled Ka Mau Te Wehi: Taking Haka To The World - Bub and Nen's Story written by author Bradford Haami in collaboration with Bub and the Wehi whanau.
Ngapo 'Bub' and Pimia 'Nen' survey their kapa haka team's performance.
Photo by Kathrin Simon.
It tells the story of Bub and Nen, a loving dedicated couple who taught a generation of Maori how to live the ideals of whanau (family) and hold fast to their cultural identity through participating in kapa haka, one of the biggest and most popular areas of Maori cultural growth to emerge in the last 30 years. Bub and Nen have been integral to the growth and development of the kapa haka phenomenon in New Zealand. Since the inaugural national kapa haka festival in 1972, then known as The New Zealand Polynesian Festival, hundreds of cultural groups have emerged at primary and secondary school level, as well as in the open arena, destined to strut their stuff on the stage. These days the bi-annual Te Matatini National Festival and the annual Maori and Pacific Secondary Schools Performing Arts Festival attracts tens of thousands of people, either as participants or spectators. Kapa haka is now a major force in the restoration and maintenance of the Maori language, tikanga and cultural identity. This was the world Bub and Nen Wehi lived for and excelled in. This was their life.
Their compositions constantly pushed the boundaries of traditional Maori song and dance, crafted specifically to capture the audiences of the day while still keeping the integrity of indigenous Maori 'flavours'. The messages conveyed in their songs covered everything from love, culture, politics and controversial social issues such as child abuse and family violence. Who could forget their classic waiata Kua Rongo, Na Te Mea, Wahine Purotu, Wahine Toa, I Te Timatanga, Te Rangihau and their vital haka Te Tiriti o Waitangi or Nga Reanga Kore Papa. Their waiata have both 'wowed' and challenged Maori audiences, many becoming classics now sung on almost every occasion where Maori people gather.
Bub and Nen's teams have represented New Zealand at four South Pacific Festivals, attended the opening of the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the closing of the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada. Bub and Nen managed to turn kapa haka into a viable business with their brand of performance being staged at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and for the national and international tourism sector. They have travelled the world with teams of young people, acting as ambassadors for Aotearoa New Zealand, and were also responsible for helping kapa haka become recognised as a legitimate form of academic study at The University of Auckland and Te Whare Wananga o Aotearoa.
In 2001 both of them were given the status of 'Tohunga Huarewa o Te Whare Pukenga'- the equivalent of an Honorary Doctorate in Performing Arts - conferred on them by Te Wananga Whare Tapere o Takitimu, an honour recognised by Massey University and the Aotearoa Traditional Maori Performing Arts Society. A decade later, Bub received a QSM (Queen's Service Medal) while Nen was posthumously awarded the MNZM (Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit) for their contribution to Maoridom. In 2012 Bub received another accolade - an honorary Bachelor's degree in Performing Arts from Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi for his outstanding contribution to kapa haka.
For years people have sought to understand Bub and Nen's secret to composing fantastic songs with inspiring choreography, maintaining consistent winning teams at national competition level and creating solid relationships with club members. Ka Mau Te Wehi offers readers an in-depth glimpse into Bub and Nen's world of composition, performance and team building. For Bub, whanau (family) and whakaiti (humility) were the two underlying ingredients essential to their success. Kapa haka was always more than just entertainment on a stage to Bub and Nen; it was the vehicle they used to pass on strong whanau values and identity to the next generation.
With Nen's tragic passing early in 2011, the Wehi family felt their parents' story needed to be told. They wanted not only to honour Bub and Nen's contribution to kapa haka, but to offer encouragement to the next generation by showing how a combination of love, family, culture, and education can lead to high achievement. Bub and his whanau shared their story with author Bradford Haami (Ngati Awa, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngai Tahu), who has written for the television and film industry and published a number of books including Putea Whakairo Maori and the Written Word (2004) and True Red The Life of an ex-Mongrel Mob Leader (2007). He was also the recipient of the first Maori writer's residency at the Michael King Maori Writers' Centre in 2010. Haami says, "the notion of building strong healthy and functional whanau through the avenue of kapa haka appealed to me, it was the mantra Bub and Nen lived by and is central to the message of this book".
Ka Mau Te Wehi is a rare insight into Bub and Nen's private lives and their journey to enhance the Maori culture they so dearly loved. Additionally, it offers a personalised history of contemporary Maori music and performance over more than half a century, surveying the origins of modern kapa haka and the path of its intense growth as a national and international phenomenon.
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