Finding our voice - Charles Looker

Voices - 24 March 2017

Charles Looker, from our 2016 Cohort, teaches Te Reo Māori at Onehunga High School and was this years Polyfest Kapa Haka tutor. Hear his reflections from Polyfest 2017 here.

Finding our voice

Charles Looker

Polyfest 2017, was about students finding their voice, and owning their voice.

In our routine, we began with a Hīmene, a hymn, and then a whakakeke which asks: "where is my voice"? During our rehearsals I encouraged the students to write their own Haka. I wanted this process to allow them to own their voice, for the haka to become their voice, then the conviction of what was being said would come across stronger. That’s what you want in a powerful Haka; truth, certainty, conviction. Without conviction, it just becomes a dance, a song; not a 'Haka'. As my students performed on stage they found it; they found their voice which helped them to embrace who they are.

Without conviction, it just becomes a dance, a song; not a ‘Haka’

For the students, they definitely walked away from their performance with a sense of pride in who they are as Māori. Many of them are now singing Māori songs around the school, I’d never heard that before now. All those who were involved with Kapa Haka now greet me in Māori. They don’t call me ‘sir’, they call me ‘matua’, which is beautiful.

Kapa Haka brought us together as a family. When drama came up, we’d form a circle and pass something around for everybody to have their say. You weren’t allowed to point fingers, and you weren’t allowed to say names.  What you were allowed to do was say what you thought the issue was and how we could solve the issue together. So 'how we would resolve that issue, and what we would do next' came from them, not from me. In this way, they all became leaders. Without being asked and without being pressured into it, students would recognise that something needed to be done and they took the initiative to do it.


I'm hoping to continue Kapa Haka after Polyfest; I’ve seen how it has positively affected my students. Some were planning on leaving school after Polyfest until they found out that Kapa Haka may be continuing. I’m hoping to continue to use Kapa Haka to motivate Māori students in many other areas - both in school and outside of school. I’ve found something that’s a motivator for a lot of the students who may seem like they’re falling through the cracks.

I’ve found something that’s a motivator for a lot of the kids who may seem like they’re falling through the cracks

We celebrate the people who have found their voice and we mourn those who were not able to find it soon enough. At the end of our performance there is an ode, a dedication in honour of those who weren’t able to find their voice, and our responsibility to work together to aid those we can in finding theirs.