He Piko He Taniwha

Riverside Terrace, Hamilton

26/02/2019 - 27/02/2019

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

He Piko He Taniwha offers an unique opportunity to experience traditional and contemporary Māori performing arts and music.

Overlooking the mighty Waikato River, this electrifying showcase features some of the Waikato’s top performers. It’s time to be captivated by a full spectrum of Māori performing arts, including narrated waiata (songs), mōteatea (chants) and haka (dances) of particular relevance to the Tainui region.

Please note the running time for this show will be 90 minutes.

Box office will be open 1 hour prior to the show.
Guests to arrive at designated staging point by 5.55pm to participate in a ceremonial welcome into the Riverside Terrace.

The designated staging point is the open space at the top of the pathway leading down to the Riverside Terrace.  

There will not be a lockout for this show.
There will not be an interval.
Approximate finish time is 7:30pm.

Wednesday 27 Feb, 6pm

Thursday 28 Feb, 6pm


Riverside Terrace


$25 General Admission

$22 Concession

*Booking fees apply

Supported by

Te Reo Māori , Site-specific/site-sympathetic , Outdoor , Kapa Haka theatre , Dance , Children’s ,

50 mins

Well satisfied

Review by Dr Debbie Bright 01st Mar 2019

This is a delightful presentation of a pōwhiri (welcome) and kapa haka performance, with huge care taken to explain and educate the audience, in English, about what will take place and why, and the content and purpose of the rituals and performance items.

On a perfect, still, sunny, warm, evening, we, the audience members, are directed to stand in the shade and wait until a gentleman arrives to instruct us on what to expect, and to lead us to the presentation area. This host/educator/kaiwhakahaere and his accompanying supporters arrive, and we are welcomed, in English, and encouraged to shout out ‘kia ora’. Audience members include foreign tourists and others from Aotearoa New Zealand. There appear to be no Māori audience members; my experience would suggest that most would not attend a paid event such as this. 

We are told that the name He Piko He Taniwhā refers to the old saying referring to the fact that the Waikato River has many bends (he piko) in its long journey from the Huka Falls to Port Waikato, and that at every bend in pre-European days, there appeared to be a village and hence a chief (he taniwhā). We are also told that the river bend on which this performance is held is part of the original Te  Parapara village that is a featured area in the Gardens.

Before we process slowly down the path towards the Waikato River, one man among our (the audience) number is chosen to be the ‘warrior’ whose job it will be to pick up the challenge laid down by the young warriors of the kapa haka group, and to speak briefly at the pōwhiri if he wishes to (all under the guidance of the host). Thus, we are guided down to the performance area beside the Waikato River, challenged by fierce-looking young warriors in feathered cloaks, moko (temporary [usually] traditional face tattoo) and green body paint. After the presentation, I am told that the name Te Aka Tārere means, in English, ‘The Vine Swinging’; hence the green colouring and draped cloaks.

As members of the wider Tainui Tribe, the group begins with the waiata/chant ‘Waikato te Awa’, and numerous other waiata about the current Māori king, King Tuheitia, previous monarchs, important sites along the Waikato River, and some important elements of iwi history. The group has created medleys of famous waiata excerpts. Thus we see and hear a range of examples of waiata, haka, action songs, poi, women’s stick games and he rākau (longer sticks wielded by men). We are told that the women’s stick games assist them in skills requiring dexterity and strong reflexes, and the men’s are used to gain the strength and dexterity required for taiaha (a long wedge-shaped club, now used for ceremonial purposes).

Numerous opportunities are provided for audience members to participate in waiata (songs), poi, haka and pῡkana (wild faces), all with guidance over which pertain to men and which to women. The audience members are guided, instructed and educated with great care, respect and humour. Our host is an engaging performer in his own right! Members of the group come into the audience and invite individuals up onto the stage to participate in haka (men) and poi (women). We are encouraged to shout out ‘Kia ora’ at appropriate moments. We are also taught to say A E I O U, andinvited to stand and sing the waiata of the same name along with the kapa haka group. All great fun!

There are numerous strong engaging moments of unison, combined with personal expression and passion. There are also poignantly beautiful moments, such as when the group sings a sweet, harmonised rendering of Te Wai Ora (healing water, both physical and spiritual); I glimpse the river flowing slowly and powerfully by between banks of green bush. Atāhua, beautiful!

I am often reminded of my own experiences of participating in or witnessing kapa haka at school, work, social events and Wānanga. I am very familiar with most of the waiata presented. I also sense that audience members are well satisfied with this performance and leave knowing much more about Māori culture than they had previously known. What a treat!  

Ko tāu rourou, ko tāku rourou, kia ora te manuhiri

(With your contribution of food and mine, the visitors will be satisfied)


Kia ora e Te Aka Tārere

Haere mai haere mai haere mai

Kia ora mō te kapa haka tino atāhua


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