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She’s got plenty of experience as a kaikaranga, but Wednesday will be a first for Tania Riwai.

Tania – a kaiako on the Post Graduate Diploma in Kaitiakitanga: Bicultural Professional Supervision in Palmerston North – is one of the kaikaranga who will welcome manuhiri to Te Matatini ki te Ao, being held in Wellington from February 20-24.

She has previously been kaikaranga at the national secondary schools kapa haka champs, but knows Te Matatini will be a big step up from that.

“It will be a huge pōwhiri,” she says.

“Te Atiawa will be the first reo karanga, then we will help share the load but there will be a lot of aspects to it that differ a little from being on the marae. Ngā mate o te mōtu will be bought with their respective rōpū, all the trophies and of course all the VIPs, it will be interesting.”

Tania is Maniapoto and Ngāti Raukawa Te Au Ki Te Tonga and is part of a contingent of Ngāti Raukawa invited to take part in the pōwhiri.

“Te Atiawa is leading the pōwhiri but Raukawa are also involved. I’m one of the Ngāti Raukawa contingent going down, there’s a whole heap of us.”

She says all the kaikaranga involved are experienced so they will only have one practice and dress rehearsal on Sunday, but she acknowledges the importance of the occasion.

“We’re all kaikaranga in our respective rohe but Te Matatini will be a first time for me and this is the mōtu we’re welcoming. However, our job is purely to maintain the mana of the whenua and to welcome the marea. It is always an honour and a privilege to do this mahi.”

Tania has previously performed at Te Matatini with Te Tū Mataora and says while she’s not performing this year “I will be feeling it”.

“We lost a kaihaka last year so there will be tears but I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m not nervous but like the motu I am counting down to it.”

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