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Pouwhenua display opens tonight to highlight Te Matatini

A new generation of urban Māori are on display in the heart of Wellington as the city prepares to host the biggest kapa haka festival in the country.

Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

The three metre-high pouwhenua mark the arrival of the upcoming Te Matatini competition which expects to bring more than 60,000 visitors to the city in February.

Young artist Chevron Hassett wants to showcase the diversity of urban Māori living in the capital.

“Essentially this body of work is Wellington city saying, hey Matatini, this is our artist. It’s for all of those people coming here over the summer to say, hey look, this is what we do here, this is what we look like.”

Kapa haka groups at Te Matatini typically acknowledge the mana whenua of the host region during their performance.

In Wellington that’s local iwi Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Toa.

But Mr Hassett said he wanted to show people Māori in the city often aren’t affiliated to either, and come from diverse backgrounds.

“Seventy-percent of Māori live in the city and most of them don’t grow up with an iwi identity and I really wanted to push that representation and show what it’s like growing up in a Māori and a Western world and living in the new age.

“Most times you see Māori portrayed in an exotic way. Even today, it’s always people doing kapa haka or doing something traditional and the reality is many people today don’t even have access to those things. They dress like that, some are very fair [skinned] and people don’t always look the same as they do in a book and I really wanted to show people that it’s quite diverse.”

Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

The display is the first of many promotional works in the lead up to Te Matatini next year.

And it’s already got local city-goer Danielle Murray excited.

“I think it’s awesome, I really like it and it adds a lot of culture to the city. I don’t know about [Te Matatini] but I’m very intrigued about it since seeing all of these posters around the city.”

Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said he was determined to get the public right behind Te Matatini.

“Te Matatini is the world’s largest kapa haka festival, it’s one of the largest indigenous festivals around the entire world so we want to make sure we activate the entire city from the stadium all the way down to the waterfront.

“We know we’re going to have 40 busses in town transporting the kapa haka groups around Wellington and we want all of Wellington to get right behind it.”

The pouwhenua display will officially open tonight.

Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

RNZTe Aniwa HurihanganuiTe Manu Korihi Reporter