Fifteen year-old Tīpene Cassidy is fairly excited about a once in a lifetime trip that he and thirty other members of Christchurch kapa haka group Te Mana o Mareikura will be taking in June. The group has been invited by The National Confederation of French Folklore Groups to perform in festivals in Voiron and Bourg Saint Maurice and they will spend one month travelling around the country giving French people a taste of Māori culture.
I’m just looking forward to seeing all the sights and taking that first step off the plane when I’m in France, he says.
Cassidy joined the group, which performs regular busking slots in Cathedral Square and The Arts Centre, about four years ago when group founder Nikora Nitro tutored him in kapa haka at local school Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Whanau Tahi. Membership is open to any and all with no fees and no age limit, though there is a strong youth focus.
Currently the group are intent on securing enough funding to pay for everyone’s airfares for the trip to France with each person needing to raise over $2500. This means that Te Mana o Mareikura will be performing a number of gigs in the coming weeks in an effort to reach their funding goal.
But coming up with the money isn’t the only hurdle that these Christchurch performers might face. Cassidy, whose only other overseas travel has been to Australia, thinks that what he will miss most while he is on the other side of the world is his ability to communicate as “everyone around me won’t be speaking English or Māori … but French”.
Though he’s well on his way:
I know hello and good-bye and counting up to ten.