Regan Kohu says it’s fitting that kapa haka is part of the 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined, with respect for Elders being an integral part of Māori culture and performance.

Regan Kohu and Nina Katene performing

It was only after moving to Australia as a 13-year-old that Nina Katene began to truly appreciate her Māori culture.

‘That’s the story for many Māori (in Australia),’ Nina says. ‘They come here and they suddenly find an obligation to get back into our culture and get more involved with the community here.’

Regan Kohu was born in Australia, but his Māori parents had always made a big effort to ensure his family continued to be involved in cultural activities.

‘They saw that it was important for us to remain connected to our homeland,’ Regan says.

As a result, the pair grew up with kapa haka, a traditional form of Māori song and dance that reinforces the importance of elders, culture and homeland. They now perform it together, or as members of the 40-strong cultural group Ngā Uri Whaioranga.

Whilst the ceremonial war dance, the haka, is the most well-known, kapa haka can be performed for a range of reasons from lamenting those now passed to stories of community, even politics, with dancers using a range of techniques and facial expressions to convey emotion.

Nina says the drama of the performance lingers long after it ends.

‘You still have a lot of adrenaline when you get off that stage. It's still that rush — you still hear the crowd, and you still feel the energy, and it's just such a high.’

Regan says it’s fitting that kapa haka is part of the 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined, with respect for Elders being an integral part of Māori culture and performance.

‘When you dance, you are representing you, as an individual, but also the places you come from, your tribes. That's what you do when you sing any song, really,’ Regan says. ‘We take our Elders on stage and we're showing what they've taught us, their experiences, their stories. It flows right through everybody in the group and it just makes everybody feel connected and in unison. It's a great feeling to be a part of.’

Watch Nina and Regan's 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined performance.