Sitting in the front row and swaying to the rhythm of the beat at the Koanga Festival hosted on Saturday at Somerville Intermediate School was Whaea Taini Drummond, a familiar Maori figure known to all schools in the area.
Twenty- six years ago, when Mrs Drummond had a vision of Koanga Festival with the idea of introducing the love for Maori culture in the school curriculum, she never imagined that the festival would grow to this magnitude.
Heavy rain showers on Saturday morning didn’t curb the enthusiasm of hundreds of students from 38 primary and secondary schools in Howick, Pakuranga, Botany and Whitford as they turned up with their proud parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunties in tow.
The powhiri started with blessings by Mrs Drummond, while students of Pigeon Mountain and Bucklands Beach Intermediate carried the ceremonial waka down the aisle to the stage at Somerville Intermediate.
Months of hard work and training unfolded on stage as kapa haka groups accompanied by guitarists won the audiences over with their powerful and enchanting performances.
Quick-witted Hone Riwaka Thorpe, MC for the day, kept the tempo going as he introduced the spectators to the significance behind a range of kapa haka moves.
Mrs Drummond who was cheering the students and singing along with her dear friend Rose Katipa said they first hosted the Koanga Festival in 1991 at the Macleans College auditorium with just a handful of schools.
“Those days we just had $200 and we put all of that towards hiring the auditorium,” she laughs.
Koanga means spring time and the festival aptly celebrates the turn of seasons with a range of foot-tapping Maori cultural performances.