Hawaiian Ensemble pūkana through Aotearoa


Photo by Courtesy of Kaitlyn Evans

Hawaiian Ensemble students showcase the haka at one of the schools they visited in Aotearoa in late March. At the school, the group was split into three teams to attend workshops. One involved learning the haka.

Kamehameha Schools Maui’s Hawaiian Ensemble traveled to Aotearoa over Spring Break to perform for and visit different Māori schools in hopes of exchanging knowledge of each other’s cultures.

“This experience allowed all of us to further our identity as Hawaiians. The passion, the inspiration, the growth developed on this huakaʻi will be one that I will lean on as I move forward making decisions here on our campus,” said Ms. Jay-R Kaawa, KSM’s academies poʻo kumu.

The Hawaiian Ensemble left on Thursday, March 16, and arrived at Auckland International Airport at 10:30 p.m. the following day.

The group stayed at four different places over the course of the trip. For the first two nights, they stayed at Novotel Hotel. Then they arrived at a school called Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Hurungaterangi and remained there for three nights. After a heartfelt departure, the group moved on to Kirikiriroa Marae in Hamilton for a two-night stay. Finally, they ended at Marae Te Tatai Hono, located near the Pasifika Festival grounds.

“This past trip really impacted me personally because visiting our Māori cousins and seeing how far they have come and how well they have incorporated their korero into everyday life opened my eyes,” said sophomore Morgan West, Hawaiian Ensemble singer.

Some events and places that the students went to were the Polyfest, Glen Eden P.I.C Church, Mitai Maori Village Experience, Te Puia, Rotorua Boys High School, Ngā Taiātea, Te Kauwhata Greenstone Factory, Māori Television, Auckland Museum, and lastly, the Pasifika Festival.

While at the schools, the group split into teams and participated in workshops that involved learning the haka, slam poetry, and physical activity. At the historical sites that they visited, such as Mitai Māori Village Experience, Te Puia, and Auckland Museum, the students witnessed performances that told stories about their culture.

Each event or school that the students attended offered a new way to interact with the Māori people and their culture. The group became accustomed to the Māori’s traditional greeting ceremony, also known as a pōwhiri.

The Māori people have integrated their culture in so much of their everyday lives, and I only wish that we as the younger generation of Hawaiians can do the same for our people one day too.”

— Lexi Figueroa, Hawaiian Ensemble dancer.

All of the Hawaiian Ensemble members can agree that the trip also brought the group closer together. West said that the best thing that came out of the trip were the “friendships and bonds that [he has] created and strengthened.”

Along with the relationships that have been created, Ms. Kaawa believes “every haumāna left Aotearoa a better singer, better musician, and better dancer.” As the group looks toward the future, they can use this experience to improve their overall performance as a group.