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We're so proud of Haara

New Zealand kapa haka champ off to Taiwan

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Kiri Te Kanawa serviced apartment caregiver, Haara Ria has been learning kapa haka since she was 15 years old.

Now her dedication and commitment to training has earned her a place in the respected Whangara mai Tawhiti kapa haka group under the tutelage of kaitataki tane (male leader) Derek Lardelli and kaitataki wahine (female leader) Lavinia Winiata.

Derek is an esteemed and talented Ta moko artist, designer, composer researcher and writer. He also wrote the new All Blacks haka!

Whangara mai Tawhiti were the supreme Aotearoa New Zealand winners with a spectacular performance that included the music of Moana, at Te Matatini National Kapa Haka festival held in Hastings last year.

The biennial event held over three days is huge and attracted 47 teams and 50,000 spectators from throughout the country.

It's a world class event which Derek likened to the kapa haka Olympics.

As part of the national team, Haara and her fellow kapa haka performers are headed to Taiwan for 10 days to compete in a cultural festival to celebrate indigenous people from throughout the world.

Kapa haka is a celebration of unique identities, of culture and language.

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"It's physical" says Haara, who practises every day. "It's a fitness itself and we are usually practising in the sun.

I never thought I would be in a winning team, ever in my life. It doesn't come around often to represent your country."

Derek Lardelli said, "This is not just about Maori; it's about New Zealand and stage performance at an international level. We are a small country, but we punch way above our weight. Kapa haka identifies us as a nation.

They usually have an array of performances (in Taiwan) and all become involved in an expression of indigenous pride from different parts of the world.

It has permeated throughout the whole ethos of us as a people. It's growing, and it's got a whole lot of arms and legs on it, and it's fantastic.

We have the same philosophies as the All Blacks - about building young people; building good minds for the future.

We've just got to let it run and find its feet. It'll be great.

We are very proud of Haara."

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To help Haara and the team, Ryman has made a koha (contribution) towards their travels representing the country and Gisborne.

"It helps to grow our young people," said Derek.

"Without this it becomes more difficult and we really appreciate the koha and that we have our whanau living in this building. (Kiri Te Kanawa Village)."

Village Manager, Neville Parkinson, likened the village to a family and acknowledged the many whanau living and working in the village.

On their return from Taiwan, Haara and some of the members of the team will perform for the residents in the village.

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Kiri Te Kanawa Asst Manager, Yvette Brown, Village Manager, Neville Parkinson, Haara Ria and  Kapa Haka leader Derek Lardelli.

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