Mika’s AROHA Mardi Gras

Takutai Square, Britomart Precinct, City, Auckland

23/09/2011 - 23/09/2011

The Real New Zealand Festival

Production Details



Haere Mai! Welcome to Mika’s AROHA Mardi Gras…  

The original New Zealand Māori cross-cultural gender-bender, Mika, has created a magical celebration of Auckland in all its glorious colour and diversity. 

AROHA Mardi Gras is an exhilarating music, dance, art, fashion, drag, burlesque and multicultural performance showcase. Mika stirs up a 21st Century cultural melting pot of tangata whenua and manuhiri from all shores into a spectacular two hour entertainment experience. 

Outrageous, eye-opening and extremely entertaining, Mika’s AROHA Mardi Gras combines the myriad of cultures that now call Aotearoa home – Japanese Taiko drummers, Polynesian dancers, Bollywood performers, belly dancers, and show-stopping drag and transgender performers – with traditional and techno-inspired Māori kapa haka crews.

This multicultural carnival will also feature popular soul and reggae singers, award-winning actors and TV personalities, a full Kim Crawford Creative Fusion fashion show from contemporary korowai designer Kiri Nathan, former All Blacks and Olympians, fresh and funky Mai FM Kā 400 flash-mobs, the mighty Te Tai Tonga kapa haka group, local 1st XV rugby teams, and a scrum pack of New Zealand’s favourite celebrities. 

Bring the whole whānau for an unforgettable and FREE evening out on the town! Mika’s AROHA Mardi Gras is happening in Britomart’s Takutai Square on Friday 23 September, with shows at 6pm and 8pm.

Both shows will be filmed to air on Māori Television during their Rugby World Cup schedule (refer to Māori TV publicity material for confirmed screening time). 

Proud to be part of the REAL New Zealand Festival. Kotahitanga mā te Rerekētanga! Unity through Difference! 

www.mikahakafoundation.com  / www.facebook.com/arohamardigras  

Mika’s AROHA Mardi Gras
THIS Friday 23 September, 6pm and 8pm
Takutai Square, Britomart Precinct, Auckland City


Mika – original Māori artist and entertainer whose innovative work spans stage, film, television, fashion and music. 

Rena Owen – one of New Zealand’s most successful and recognisable actresses of both stage and screen. 

Keisha Castle-Hughes – internationally recognised Māori actress, and the youngest ever nominee for a Best Actress Academy Award

Jay Tewake – AROHA Mardi Gras choreographer, lead singer of new pop group, The Glamboyz, and Mika Haka Foundation’s Kā Life Team Leader

Edward Ru – lead singer of Auckland reggae band, Sweet & Irie

Erakah – talented young R&B and soul singer, and winner of Best Pacific Female Artist category at the Pacific Music Awards

Mahina Kaui – Taonga Pūoro composer and master musician, and founding member of Hokianga roots band, Big Belly Woman

Leda Petit – New Zealand’s top burlesque showgirl, and hostess of Petit Cheval Burlesque

Kiri Nathan – AROHA Mardi Gras costumier and award-winning Māori fashion designer, known for her contemporary korowai couture

All music by Mika and Siegfried Hans, with Gareth Farr, Michael Rush, Sonny Bishop, Tim Corin and Mahina Kaui


Mai FM Kā 400 Crew – Mika Haka Foundation youth performance and active participation group, led by Jay Tewake
New YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNUsjaFLfq0

AUT Dance Company – a collective of past and present AUT University Bachelor of Dance students 

Te Tai Tonga Kapa Haka – South Auckland Māori cultural performance group, based at Manurewa Marae
New YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHIsmCu7s5A

Te Ariki Vaine – Polynesian dance team, fusing Cook Islands, Tahitian, Samoan and Tongan movement 

Haere Mai Taiko Drummers – Auckland based Japanese drumming and dance group 

The Glamboyz – Jay Tewake’s pop group and dance crew 

Haka Punks – Mika’s new kapa haka fusion crew 
New YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czYb8kRWX3Q  

Pounamu Diamonds – Mika’s soul powered girl group and backing vocalists, led by Rachael Avega-Timoti (a.k.a. BUU) 

Desi Shape Shifters – Auckland based Bollywood dance group 

Pearlz of Meganesianz – show-stopping Fa’afafine Cook Islands dance troupe 

Te aMo – traditional and contemporary Polynesian dance fusion 

TamaSa – South Auckland based traditional Samoan performing arts group 

The Manu Dolls – South Auckland based Māori drag troupe, led by Miss Chanel D’Vinci

Phoenix & Tais Belly Dance – Auckland based, international award-winning divas of belly dance 


Downtown heads uptown after Mika’s AROHA Mardi Gras!

Get it on with Mika and the cast of AROHA at the Family nightclub complex and party into the morning after. Kick-off from 10pm at Family Nightclub, 270 Karangahape Road.

Plus, Mika’s Haka Punks and Miss Ribena’s drag divas will also be rarking up the Karangahape Road ridge after each and every Eden Park match right through the Rugby World Cup! Ka pai!  

Unity through diversity

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 25th Sep 2011

Mika’s Aroha Mardis Gras is the culmination of the two week 2011 Aroha Festival, a festival that professes to celebrate “Auckland City Colour and Diversity” and which is in its second year. The Aroha Festival is the brainchild of Mika and history clearly points to one fact above all others: Mika delivers what he says he’ll deliver despite dreaming the seemingly impossible.

On the surface Mika may seem to be an eccentric, talented, campy, self-publicist all of which he would freely admit to being true, but he’s much, much more than that. Mika has, in short, done more for disadvantaged brown kids than anyone else I can name. He’s an astute businessman (check out www.mikahakafoundation.com to see who his partners and his sponsors are), he has an eye for an opportunity like no-one else I’ve ever met and he knows that, as long as he remains the face and voice of his vision, it’s all going to work.  

The Mika Haka Foundation website states that the kaupapa of the organisation “invites people of diverse ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientation and religions, living in Aotearoa/New Zealand, to find pathways towards better health and education opportunities through the performing arts.” It goes on to add “We want to provide an environment of inspiration, encouraging dreams and the idea that nothing is impossible. To push yourself to new heights, to have no fear of failure and to be in a constant state of learning.”

It’s all very admirable and, since its inception in 2000, well on the way to being achieved. 

I’ve had the good fortune to know Mika since we were both different people and have watched him admiringly as he’s morphed into the powerhouse he is today. Believe me, it’s been quite a journey. It’s one of life’s wonderful ironies that we’ve ended up on the same side of the fence considering where we both started – but that’s enough of that. It’s sufficient to say we’ve known each other an awfully long time. 

While it may seem at times to be all about Mika it’s actually all about service and quality control. No-one shares the stage more willingly nor more effectively than Mika and nowhere is this better expressed that in Mika’s Aroha Mardis Gras where he is, as is so often the case, surrounded by a cast of thousands, all seemingly multi-talented. 

To quote the festival press release “Aroha Mardis Gras is a festive carnival. It’s original, outrageous and diverse.” The publicity also advises those attending – and potential viewers – that the event will be filmed for a one-off special to be shown on Maori TV featuring a who’s who of television and music stars. 

Let’s get one thing straight. Auckland does big outdoor events as well as anywhere in the world. Christmas in the Park, Pasifika, Farmer’s Christmas Parade, The Lantern Festival, Symphony Under the Stars and Diwali all attract audiences of close to 200,000 with little or no issue. We know how to do this stuff. The recent waterfront debacle only happened because Wellington – read ‘government’ – got involved. Leave it to us and we’ll mostly get it right.

Mika got it right.

Arriving in plenty of time at Takutai Square, close to the Cloud and in the centre of downtown Auckland, we were greeted by a huge stage in front of the Ernst and Young Building on the side of which were two stylised whare, each with its own performance area. To the left of the stage proper was the secure VIP area already set up with the drums of the Haere Mai Taiko drummers and space for what became a catwalk. 

Directly behind the performance area proper was a giant screen already peppering the crowd with multicoloured images, all to the beats of music which, throughout the 90 minute performance, were provided by Mika and Siegfried Hans supported by Gareth Farr, Michael Rush, Sonny Bishop, Tim Corin and Mahina Kaui. 

Ensuring perfect visuals for the crowd and for the TV audience was the most impressive lighting rig I’ve seen in ages and a PA system to die for. Controlling sound in an urban environment is always tricky due to the various hard surfaces that abound but I happen to like the thunk thunk of the delayed echo and after awhile the brain disengages with it and focuses on the amalgam of sound, light and performance on the stage that makes up shows of this kind.

It has to be said the visuals throughout the evening were both spectacular and engaging and the sound quality excellent. It became apparent the minute the show started that this was the artistic equivalent of a minority report, a statement made by New Zealand’s minorities that said “we can do this too”. Not exactly in competition with the Rugby World Cup, more like standing alongside a warm-hearted big brother who is saying, “Well done, bro.”

Presented in the form of a revue the whole thing rolled over the audience in the most wonderful way. Artist after artist, group after group, had their moment on the centre stage in what seemed like a structure without form it was so seamless. Costumes were simply extraordinary with the best use of fabric and colour in sync with a wind machine imaginable. 

Mika’s Aroha Mardis Gras celebrates cultural diversity and, while ethnicity was a vital factor in expressing culture on the night, it was personally affirming to see ‘culture’ being interpreted more broadly than is usually the case. The queer communities were in attendance with a whole bunch of gender-bending glamour pusses strutting their stuff much to the delight of the entire crowd. 

While the whole presentation was extraordinary there were features worthy of special mention.

Rena Owen, in a gown made in heaven, held the whole thing together and managed that fraught interface between live performance and the needs of television with wit and good humour, her momentary engagement with the wind machine being more than memorable. 

Featured soloists included Jay Tewake and a deliciously outfitted Keisha Castle-Hughes whose duet with Mika was silky smooth and would have stood scrutiny in any piano bar in the world.

Personal favourite moments were provided by Te Tai Tonga Kapa Haka who were superb, Mika’s own Haka Punks, the Pearlz of Meganesianz, TamaSa and The Manu Dolls.

The highlight of the show, however, for me was the Kim Crawford Fashion and Creative Fusion section which featured the Korowai couture show of fashions by Kiri Nathan, called, if I heard correctly, Awatea. The frocks were stunning – breathtaking – and the models sultry, ragged, sensuous and painfully beautiful. Watch out for Kiri Nathan, she has something very, very special.

The contribution made to the fashion show by the Haere Mai Taiko Drummers can’t be overlooked either. There’s something about taiko drumming in the outdoors that is both primeval and uplifting in a way that affirms us as a people despite the cultural references being first and foremost from another part of the Pacific. It’s all about unity and diversity, after all.

At the heart of it all, of course, was Mika whose courage, vision, persistence and love of his fellow man enriches life for all of us.
Kia kaha, Mika.
Well done, mate.
Kotahitanga ma te Rereketanga!
Unity through Diversity! 
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