A look at what people are eating this week at the ‘Olympics of kapa haka’.
Having the opportunity to watch kapa haka in person is always a joy. When it’s the best of the best – unbeatable. I’ve spent the last two days immersed in the world of Te Matatini (often described as the Olympics of kapa haka), and it has been a delight.
On Tuesday, Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei, hosts of this year’s competition, welcomed over 1,000 manuhiri, including competing kapa haka groups, onto Ōkahu Bay Reserve with a pōwhiri to mark the beginning of the competition. And on Wednesday the competition kicked off in style, with the first 15 kapa haka rōpu. Thirty more groups will have taken the stage at Eden Park over by the end of Friday, in the hopes of making it to the finals this Saturday.
When I spoke to Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei Trust board chair Marama Royal earlier in the week about the logistics of hosting, she underscored the significance of kai throughout. “When you go to the marae you always remember what you get fed, you don’t remember much else,” Royal said. “Your reputation hangs on your kai.”
While the real stars of Te Matatini are on stage, along with their backstage support and whānau in the crowd, the sparkle of Te Matatini, like any event in te ao Māori, has been punctuated by its abundant and delicious kai. Some of this was made up by pillars of Māori cuisine: foil-wrapped hāngi parcels, kina shots, half-shell oysters, creamed paua, steamed pudding, fry bread and mussel fritters. And then, there are delectable treats from further afield: Lebanese mezze platters, Cook Island barbecue, Tongan Ōtai, bowls of Cantonese sweet and sour pork and delightfully kaleidoscopic shaved ice. To celebrate all of this, nothing but a picture essay will do. Here are images of just some of the kai on the first day of Te Matatini.
“Quick, take a picture before it’s all gone.” Te Matatini first-timers Steve and Philippa Fitzsimons are visiting from Vancouver. They’re eating steamed pudding with custard and banoffee pie.
Rob Anderson, Sian Roberts and Terina Anderson rehydrate with tall cups of ōtai.
Watermelon and ice-cream.
Te Whai Ao Manga and Te Amiorangi Manga with their kaimoana and fry bread lunch from Toby’s Seafood stall.
Left: Mussel fritters and a Cook Island steak and mushroom sauce roll. Right: A rainbow shaved ice.
Students Claudia and Jessica take a break between performances with sweet and sour pork and fried noodle boxes. They take te reo Māori as a subject at school and this is their first time at Te Matatini.
Rainbow shaved ice in the making.