History Ngā Pākihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha Estab. 1965

Te Kiato Riwai

1965 saw the visionary dream of Te Kiato Riwai affectionately known as Kia, take seed. With the strength of Aoraki to draw on, the wairua of her tipuna to guide her, and the love and support of her whānau and friends, Kia’s dream of young Māori and their whānau learning their heritage and participating in their culture, like the newly formed fronds of the pītau began to slowly unfurl.

A steadfast belief that through these disciplines Māori could develop further in whatever field they desired saw Kia travel the length and breadth of Te Waipounamu establishing the ongoing vision and legacy that still holds strong today.

Kia Riwai’s legacy was borne out of pride, passion, commitment and a real sense of whakawhanaungatanga. It was this stalwart sense of identity and community that had earlier inspired Kia who joined with others to establish the Kāti Ōtautahi Association during the war years 1939 – 1945 thus enablisn assistance for the men in the Māori Battalion based overseas.

From the 1950’s to the 1960’s Kia poured her energy into organizing culturl competitions initialially starting with Motueka seasonal workers. After the success of these competitions Kia decided to send out invitations to the various rohe throughout Te Wai Pounamu.

Kia wrote:

“An invitation is therefore extended to all clubs, associations, groups and concert parties in the South Island to participate in this venture, which it is hoped will be the forerunner of annual competitions.”

The avid response to Kia’s invitation culminated in the presentation of the first ever, official Māori Cultural competition involving all districts of Te Waipounamu in the Theatre Royal, Christchurch 1965.

Despite the shared camaraderie amongst the competing teams, competition was fierce with Te Whetu Ariki o Kahukura taking out first place in the senior section. Awataha and Avonside College equally reveling in success at joint first place in the intermediate section. True to Kia’s tautoko, this event anchored itself firmly as the forerunner to all current Waitaha annual cultural competitions.

Te Kiato Riwai passed away in 1967 though her living legacy continues to be remembered and fostered under the guardianship of Ngā Pākihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha. This name was officially bestowed by Ngāi Tahu kaumātua in 1967 at Tuahiwi.

Today Ngā Pakihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha not only continues to pay homage to the work and vision of Kia Riwai but equally as important to the kaumātua who worked so diligently throughout Te Waipounamu forming cultural groups and marae/rūnanga and local towns. The challenge and acceptance of friendly competition between marae/rūnanga evolved to become the forum for the district and national festivals as we know them today.

Whilst Kia Riwai’s vision enabled the first official cultural competition in Waitaha to take place, other Māori cultural performance groups prior to this had been gradually establishing an indigenous performance niche in the national and international arena. This was essentially due to the advent of transport in the last century which enabled cultural groups in Te Waipounamu to seize the opportunity to travel. One such group was the successful ‘Waiata Concert Group’. Made up of youth from kaika of Waitaha, Ōtakou and Murihiku, the ‘Waitaha Concert Group’ travelled extensively through Europe during the 1930’s under the auspices of Father Seamer of the Methodist Māori Mission.

Another esteemed group from Waitaha also noted for pioneering Māoritanga through cultural performances was ‘Melodies of Māoriland’. Comprised entirely of youth from Tuahiwi, the group was established during the 1950’s. Led by kaiwhakahaere and treasured mentor Te Ari Pitama, Melodies of Maoriland delivered awe inspiring performances to numerous Marae throughout Te Ika a Maui and Te Waipounamu.

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