Skip Content
Te Rita Papesch

Te Rita Papesch had her schedule at the Tainui Waka Kapa Haka Festival all sorted, days ahead of last weekend’s event.

“It’s a bit of a struggle to sit there for 13 hours so I had my day planned to watch a few groups, go and have a rest and come back,” she says.

But that all changed the night before, when she learned she would be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the festival, in recognition of her long involvement in Māori performing arts, most notably kapa haka.

“Of course I ended up staying there all day and I thoroughly enjoyed the day.”

Te Rita – kaiako on the He Waka Hiringa Master of Applied Indigenous Knowledge programme - has been involved in kapa haka since the 1970s.

She performed for Queen Elizabeth during the 1970 Royal Tour and was part of the inaugural Waikato University kapa haka group, which formed in 1978.

In 1979 she became the first woman to receive the Kaitātaki Wahine title at the national kapa haka champs in Gisborne.

Te Rita has seven children, all involved in kapa haka, and more than 30 grandchildren. Last weekend, she had three grandchildren performing, a daughter MCing the event and another on the festival organising Trust.

“It was the fewest ever on stage on Saturday," she says.

Alongside performing arts, education has always been important to Te Rita and she combined both in her doctoral thesis, titled Creating a Modern Māori Identity through kapa haka.

She says receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award was “an absolute honour”.

“It really means recognition from my iwi in the area that I have contributed in. I might not be visible in business or other areas but I certainly have been visible in the performing arts. I am very proud and very privileged.”

“Kapa haka is not just entertainment. It’s tikanga and reo and keeping people well and healthy, things like that, so that’s what it really means to me. I means my iwi have acknowledged me and that’s lovely when you’re hitting 70.”

 Back to news & events

Published On:

Article By:



Other Articles

  • 20 May, 2019

    New focus on doing good

    From being something of a self-confessed, unmotivated teenage “ratbag”, Joshua Wallace is now focused on establishing himself in a sound career as a police officer where he can help others.

  • 20 May, 2019

    Honouring his tipuna through te reo

    For Arran Pene, his developing proficiency in te reo Māori is, in part, about paying tribute to his tīpuna

  • 1 May, 2019

    Royal approval for writing

    An academic article written by a Te Wānanga o Aotearoa tauira has been given the seal of approval from the highest level.

  • 2 May, 2019

    Tauira learn from one of the best

    Anthony “Mok” Smallman has packed a lot of frontline experience into his military, policing and security sector careers over the past 40 years.