The Otago Corrections Facility at Milburn echoed to a different beat last week when contestants in the national Whakataetae, the Department of Corrections’ annual inter› prison kapa haka competition, performed in front of judges and invited whanau.
In a stirring performance that lasted half an hour, the 20›strong multicultural group of prisoners, Te Moana Nui A Kiwa, sang and performed a mix of Maori and Pacific Island songs and dances before unveiling their entry in the national kapa haka competition with a forceful demonstration of their own haka, lasting five minutes.
A Te Moana Nui A Kiwa spokesman said the haka was written by a friend in Auckland.
‘‘It talks about what we have lost and then brought back into our identity.’’
The group consisted of Maori, Tongan, Samoan and Filipino performers.
The spokesman said it was important to include multiple ethnicities from the Corrections facility at Milburn in the team as ‘‘without everybody working to improving their lives it wouldn’t work’’.
Kapa haka judge Tapeta Wehi said what the audience and the judges saw in the competition was beautiful.
‘‘The presentation was so raw and yet so beautiful.
‘‘It was great to see the cultures come together.
‘‘We — the judges — have travelled to 16 facilities all over the country to judge these kapa haka performances and it has been a wonderful, uplifting and very spiritual experience for all of them.
‘‘By reconnecting with their identities they have reinstalled their deep community values in their lives.
‘‘It has made the judging so hard as it’s raw, straight›from› the›heart performances.’’