Wellington Scoop

Crowds on waterfront for wakas, choirs, kapa haka

Photo: Katie Shaw

News from NZ Festival
A mass assembly of waka hourua (twin-hulled ocean-going waka) from around the Pacific and Aotearoa arrived in Wellington Harbour at dusk tonight, opening the New Zealand Festival with a spectacular Waka Odyssey.

Photo: NZ Festival

The show was developed through a partnership between A Waka Odyssey Creative Team Anna Marbrook, Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr and Kasia Pol, the New Zealand Festival and Te Āti Awa / Taranaki Whānui Iwi. The waterfront was packed by thousands of people to watch the free event.



Designed to honour and celebrate our shared voyaging history, A Waka Odyssey continues with a series of events over five days, beginning with the opening night spectacle to honour the legacy of Pacific explorer Kupe. The choreographed movements involved seven waka hourua, eight waka taua, and a fleet of waka ama, with actors, choirs and kapa haka groups welcomed the voyagers. A 1000-strong new haka for Wellington was performed, and a full new musical score has been composed by New Zealand music icon Warren Maxwell. The performers paid tribute to Kupe’s discovery of Aotearoa and first landing of the waka Matahorua in the harbour. Kupe and his wife Kuramarotini were played by Te Kohe Tuhaka and Maisey Rika.

Creative Director Anna Marbrook says, “The performance and the preceding journey was a way of capturing all of our stories of voyaging here (to Aotearoa New Zealand). At the heart of that are three thousand years of voyaging history.”

The journey undertaken by the crews of the waka hourua began almost four weeks ago departing from Auckland, Tauranga and Napier to reach Wellington in time for tonight’s performance. The participation of the waka hourua was led by master Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr navigator, voyager and waka expert who has been a leader in the movement to teach the skills of traditional voyaging and celestial navigation. The crews’ skills were tested by the bad weather – a reminder of the incredible feat of Kupe and the first voyagers.


Free, community-based opening night events have become a hallmark of Shelagh Magadza’s Artistic Directorship during her six-year tenure at the New Zealand Festival. Like the Le Grand Continental dance display in 2016, and The Big Bang drumming extravaganza in 2014, Shelagh says A Waka Odyssey involves deep community participation and commitment, and will have resonance throughout New Zealand, and beyond.

“This stunning opening night event is an amazing way to open our three-week Festival, and we feel privileged that waka hourua vessels will travel to the Capital from all around Aotearoa, with others sailing to us from as far away as Samoa and Cook Islands. A Waka Odyssey is the perfect fit with the 2018 Festival’s themes of journey, home and belonging.”

“The opening night marks the beginning of a week of activity inspired by waka hourua and Pacific voyaging. As well as fun activities like a free Whanau Day at Petone Foreshore on 24 February, there’s an extensive education programme associated with A Waka Odyssey, traversing the themes of navigation, voyaging, science, environment, sustainability, and history,” Shelagh says.

John Smyth/TheatreView: Opening night falls short

1 comment:

  1. michael, 24. February 2018, 11:17

    Thank you to all concerned, as it was just amazing. The sound of the haka and the singing over the harbour was very emotional and so clear. One spinoff for many of us who went down very early to wait was the camaraderie among people who had never met before. And it was very surprising how far some people had come to be there.