Making the Connection

Maori visitors share history and talents.  

By Jennifer Smith

While several thousands of miles of water divides Hawaii and New Zealand, a two week visit from Maori performers, showed the Molokai community that the two cultures have more in common than meets the eye.
“We are all one big `ohana,” said Aunty Snooky, while helping to host the Maori visitors.

Through performances, workshops, and even providing a helping hand in some taro patches and fish ponds, the members of Te Ihi Connection were able to share their cultural heritage, while learning about Hawaii’s history. 

“I just love it here,” said Merlene Maxwell, co-owner of Te Ihi Connection. She said the island is “so very different,” and full of “very spiritual people.”

This is Maxwell and co-owner Wiremu Kerekere Wehi’s second trip to Molokai. After a positive experience last year, they returned with well-trained, young Te Ihi performers.

The pan-tribal group from Wellington came to share culture, in addition to planning for a potential Molokai based Polynesian festival, and assisting the `O Hina i ka Malama immersion school.

During a three day workshop series at Keawanui, the group helped interested community members learn about kappa haka, traditional Maori performing arts. Unlike other indigenous dance forms, kapa haka requires performers to sing, dance, and have expression simultaneously.

Twirling, throwing, and dodging various length sticks, participants learned about whakaraka. “In the old days we were very war-like people – like Hawaiians,” Wehi said, explaining that whakaraka helped to strengthen posture, improve eye-hand coordination, and flexibility of the wrists for warriors.

After teaching the Molokai community about Maori pastimes, members of Te Ihi became the students, learning about what Hawaiians do when war is kapu, or forbidden. While the Makahiki season is typically held near the winter months, the Maoris learned about the history and importance of the season and the Ahupua'a System by participating in traditional Hawaiian games.

“This could be the beginning to the Poly fest” on Molokai, Maxwell said. She did not feel it was her place to say what the island should have in its festival, but said, “we are here to be a part of it … we plan to come back every year.”

Until then, the group will continue offering Maori Cultural experiences to visitors in New Zealand, while preparing to compete in competitions such as Te Matatini (similar to Hawaii’s Merrie Monarch) and New Zealand’s Polyfest. The next Te Matatini will be held in February 2009, with about 33 of the best Maori groups competing.

For more information on Te Ihi Connection visit



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