06 Dec 2022

This content is tagged as Multi-Artform .


Young child performing
Bonita Halafihi performs a tradtional Tongan tau’olunga to a sold-out crowd at Pipitea Marae on 26 November 2022. Photographer: Hillz Kahaki (Photo supplied)

What began as a group of friends tutoring Porirua College’s kapa haka has grown into a youth organisation dedicated to making change. 

Saviiey Nua was born and raised in Porirua. She takes great pride in her Samoan heritage and customs and is equally proud of her deep connections to Te Ao Māori through her haka mentors.  

Having completed Māori Performing Arts qualifications through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Te Wānanga o Raukawa, she says she was able to immerse herself in the cultural practice of haka and associated knowledge systems. 

Equipped with the knowledge she felt it was her responsibility to share it with students at her old school at Porirua College. 

“My goal at the time was to help students understand it more. There is a purpose and a reason for aspects of cultural performing arts. To also show them what performing arts has done for me.” 

She says seeing the leadership skills and confidence skills emerge from rangatahi being immersed in cultural performing arts is fulfilling. However, there were not too many options to pursue this when students left school.  

“The aim was always to raise Māori and Pacific student achievement at the school. As well as raising the level of haka and other performing arts in mainstream school,” Saviiey said. 

Ngā Uri o Whiti Te Rā Mai Le Moana Trust began operating as a youth development organisation in 2019. The trust, based in Porirua, created a ‘Hub’ – a one-stop-shop to meet the young people’s needs.  

“It’s a youth space,” said Saviiey. “‘The Hub’ can be a space for the arts, financial advice, employment support, education support, and other community support.” 

The organisation currently employs 11 staff, six of which are cultural performance tutors who work across eight schools in Porirua and one school in Wellington city. It is a tough gig, but they say they’re up to the challenge.  

Performers on stage
Xavier Tumai and Masi Smith perform a siva at Ngā Uri o Whiti Te Rā Mai Le Moana Trust’s end of year concert at Pipitea Marae on the 26th of November. Photo: Hillz Kahaki. (Photo supplied)

From siva Sāmoa, to Cook Island ura, to kapa haka and even tau’olunga, the staff continue to perfect their skills in the various dance disciplines and now share all that knowledge with young people. They coordinate pastoral care services for youth, host traditional dance workshops and create positive spaces for talanoa through their monthly ‘kaikai nights’.

Saviiey said that observing the transformation in young people has been the biggest win this far.

“We have classes to tutor our kids about their culture. A lot of our people are disconnected from their culture and so it's easier to reteach to our youth through dance. Dance is emotional, people can connect through dance,” Saviiey said.

Kapa Haka performers
Saviiey performs a haka bracket with staff and youth of Ngā Uri o Whiti Te Rā Mai Le Moana Trust. Photographer: Hillz Kahaki (Photo supplied).

“It's a pilot - but the kaupapa will continue”

‘The Hub’ is funded through the Creative Communities Scheme. This fund is a partnership between Creative New Zealand, City and District councils. It ensures that everyone in Aotearoa can participate and access creativity where they live. 

Whilst Ngā Uri o Whiti Te Rā Mai Le Moana Trust and their programme are still in a pilot phase, they are adamant to keep pushing ahead with their work. Work that they say has been possible with support from their whānau, community and local council.

Creative Communities Scheme Senior Adviser Rebecca Kunin says organisations like Ngā Uri o Whiti Te Rā are incredibly valuable community-based groups that work tirelessly to achieve great outcomes for their communities. 

“We’re proud that the Creative Communities Scheme in Porirua can support Ngā Uri o Whiti Te Rā who harness the power of traditional performing arts to support well-being in their community,” said Rebecca.

“We’re excited to look to the new year with a renewed determination to continue in our work to grow our communities' future leaders,” Saviiey said.