2011 Tai Tokerau Festival

Co-hosted this year by Whangarei Girls' and Boys' high schools, the festival is a non-competitive celebration of culture and art through kapa haka.

Held on Wednesday and Thursday last week, the event involved 25 schools from Warkworth to Kaitaia. Each school was given 30 minutes to perform to kaumatua, kuia and VIPs in Whangarei Girls' High School hall. They then repeated the performance in front of a general audience at the school's gymnasium.

Hundreds of people came to watch the performances, with the gym overflowing on the Wednesday.

Girls' high school head of dance Leone Neal says the atmosphere at the event was great. "My mum came and watched on Wednesday, she had tears in her eyes, she was just blown away by the performances, especially when our girls performed," she says. It gives you goose bumps on the back of your neck."

As well as the performances there were a number of stalls selling everything from food to t-shirts.

Mrs Neal and a group of girls' high students sold hot chips and burgers to raise money for the school's performing arts centre. "There's a big shortfall between what we want and what we can afford so we thought this would be a really good chance to get some hot food going. It saves people going into town," she says.

Te Tai Tokerau Secondary Schools Festival was started in 1976 by Opononi Area School parents and staff. It aims to encourage student participation in Maori cultural activities, showcase the talent of youth and give students a chance to network.

Next year's festival will be hosted by Te Rangi Aniwaniwa in Awanui.

The Northern Advocate 19 April 2011