The Polynesian Cultural Center's 2017 Te Manahua Festival poster

The Polynesian Cultural Center’s 2017 Te Manahua Festival poster

ATTENTION, Maori culture fans! The Polynesian Cultural Center’s Aotearoa Village has invited an amazing slate of special artisans from New Zealand to our biannual Te Manahua Festival. The event will be held:

in the PCC’s Aotearoa Village from July 13-15, 2017.

Rahira Makekau, PCC Te Manahua Coordinator and Maori cultural performance specialist

Rahira Makekau, PCC Te Manahua Coordinator and Maori cultural performance specialist

Rahira Makekau, Te Manahua coordinator and PCC Maori cultural performance specialist, explained that this year’s festival goes beyond competitions among various groups performing kapa haka, or traditional Maori action songs and dances.

Whakataetae and Te Manahua origins

“Te Manahua means the fruition of our mana Maori [inner essence] as seen in all our artistic forms,” she continued, saying this better represents the 2017 festival outline.

“In the past Te Manahua has always been about groups who competed in the morning,” Makekau said. “This year we will feature an all-day event on Saturday afternoon in the village; and although we have no competing groups this year, there will be something going on at all times.

Makekau explained with the festival’s expanded focus, she was able to successfully secure a $10,000 grant from Creative New Zealand, that country’s national arts development agency, “to help us bring over these participants.”

Special artisans and activities

The special artisans and Saturday activities include:

  • Rob Ruha, a top Maori soul singer who has previously been to the Cultural Center several times as a judge for previous competitions. “He kicked off his solo career when he was here before,” Makekau said, “and now he’s an award-winning contemporary Maori music songwriter and singer. We’re going to have some of our locals be his back-up band.”
  • Tapeta and Annette Wehi, tutors for Te Waka Huia, one of the top kapa haka groups in New Zealand, will provide presentations on traditional songs and dances.
  • “We have three carvers coming from the Arts and Crafts Institute at Whakarewarewa, Rotorua, New Zealand, who will be demonstrating all day.
  • “And we have Hawaiki Tū, a haka theater group. They’re amazing. They’re so hot in New Zealand at the moment. This group takes hard-core Maori haka dance and form, and fuses it with contemporary dance.”

Makekau said in addition to the special guests and ongoing Aotearoa Village activities, Te Manahua Festival will also feature Maori handicraft sales and typical Kiwi food.

Preceding Thursday and Friday workshops

On the preceding Thursday and Friday, July 13-14, Makekau continued, Te Manahua 2017 will feature several unique Maori cultural workshops:

Noted Maori artist Rangi Kipa is offering a master design workshop

Noted Maori artist Rangi Kipa is offering a master design workshop

  • Rangi Kipa, “who is one of the top contemporary and traditional artisans of tāmoko [Maori tattooing] and bone carving. He goes all around the world, and has a following here in Hawaii. His principles of Maori design workshop will run from 1 to 5 p.m. each of the three days, and will be geared to anyone who’s an artist and interested in learning  Principles of Design. Enrolment is limited to 10 students. Contact us if you’re interested.”
  • The Hawaiki Tū dancers will put on workshops on the preceding Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the village, “focusing on Maori movement.” She noted there is a $50 registration fee that covers both days. “Then on Saturday, we’re hoping the workshop participants will appear in an impromptu flash-mob performance.”

Ticketing information

Te Manahua events on Saturday, July 15, are included with all admission tickets. Admission is free for Kamaaina Annual Pass holders (ID required); and there is a $10 fee for those who only wish to participate in Te Manahua events. For further information, call 1-800-367-7060 or 808-293-3333

Mindful that people who work during the day might not be able to take the dance workshop, Makekau said Hawaiki Tū has offered to put on another session on Friday evening, July 14, starting at 6 p.m.

Some of the participants will also put on a special half-hour performance that evening at the Laie Marriott Courtyard, which is co-sponsoring the event.

Powhiri greeting for artisans

In typical Maori fashion, Makekau noted the Aotearoa villagers at the PCC will welcome all the special visitors with a traditional powhiri greeting ceremony on Wednesday evening, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Powhiri ceremony at the 2015 Te Manahua celebration

Powhiri ceremony at the 2015 Te Manahua celebration

“I want to acknowledge all those who started our whakataetae and Te Manahua Festival,” Makekau said. “Years ago we had lots of help from Pulefano Galea’i; the late Valetta Jeremiah, Aunty Nikki Wallace, and Uncle Colin and Aunty Raewyn Shelford; also the young guns, Seamus Fitzgerald, Tama Halvorsen, Alex and Shannon Galea’i and a whole team who really worked hard to make these events successful. We need that foundation to keep growing.”

“Our Maori culture is alive and vibrant. To have the opportunity to bring it here to PCC — with special guests from home who come and support us — tells us we’re on the right track,” she said. “We can give our visitors an authentic experience — of both traditional and contemporary Maori culture in all its forms. It’s an awesome opportunity to take Te Manahua to another level.”

Mark your calendars.


Mike Foley, who has worked off-and-on at the Polynesian Cultural Center since 1968, has been a full-time freelance writer and digital media specialist since 2002, and had a long career in marketing communications and PR before that. He learned to speak fluent Samoan as a Mormon missionary before moving to Laie in 1967 – still does, and he has traveled extensively over the years throughout Polynesia and other Pacific islands. Foley is mostly retired now, but continues to contribute to various PCC and other media.