As the numbers of visitors flocking to Auckland burgeons, a big crowd enjoyed an evening of entertainment when Waka Maori was opened by Prime Minister John Key last night.
The huge waka-shaped pavilion lit up Auckland’s waterfront and rocked as Hinewehi Mohi and Maori violinist Elena entertained a crowd of international rugby officials, former Maori All Blacks, business people and journalists from around the world. The event was hosted by Carol Hirshfeld and Julian Wilcox.
A clearly excited Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples encouraged the crowd to come back to be part of the entertainment programme and business functions over the coming days.
The Maori Rugby Exhibition received a lot of attention as Maori All Blacks and a few former All Blacks such as Tana Umaga signed part of the exhibition. Waka Maori started as it intends to continue with people able to chat with rugby players of note in a casual environment.
When an Al Jazeera news team missed the powhiri the Ngati Whatua kapa haka group obliged by recreating the blowing of the pukaea which will now be screened throughout the world.
The Waka Maori programme of Maori cultural events runs until the end of the tournament and includes a broad mix of traditional and contemporary Maori performance.
Apart from the performances running in the 76 metre long waka venue, Waka Maori also has three marquees where visitors can watch carvers from the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute carve traditional carvings. Visitors can also have ta moko done (traditional Maori tattoo) and watch women weaving. Waka Maori also has contemporary arts on display.
Friday Elena performs again as well as reknowned kapa haka group Waka Huia and Wai.
Former Maori All Blacks Ron Cribb, Mark Mayerhofler, Rhys Duggan and Tony Marsh will be at the waka to meet visitors and in the evening there is an evening of Maori cultural entertainment for international journalists.