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Wednesday, 1. October 2003
Ti Rangi Huata

Ti Rangi Huata

'KiaOra' says Ti Rangi Huata from Kiwiland

Your first contact with MRA-IC...
When I was a student at High School in New Zealand, I was invited to join a show called Song of Asia at Asia Plateau, Panchgani. In school I had a background in theater and drama. After I arrived in India, Raj Mohan Gandhi invited me to be the Assistant Director of Song of Asia, which over-whelmed me since I was only in High School at that time.

Any memorable experience fromSong of Asia...
Meeting Mother Teresa in Kolkata was one of the most memorable experiences. The stage manager’s (Mike Jeffery) mother who was touring with us had the thought that we should perform at the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata. We did a performance for the Missionaries of Charity, who were our best audience. We were the first group to perform for them. Mother Teresa said, “Your work and our work are the same, we are rubbing and scrubbing, you are singing and dancing ”.

During Song of Asia, some of the cast took decisions to do something of value in their careers. So I chose to stay and got involved in theatrical and cultural projects. I spent 25 years working with indigenous tribal groups in Australia, Canada, USA and New Zealand. I then specialized in event management of community festivals.

Kahurangi Maori Dance Theater

Main objective of ’Kahurangi Maori Dance Theater ’ (KMDT)...
I am the Special Projects Manager at KMDT. Kahurangi was started by my brother, Tama Huata, 20 years ago to create cultural, spiritual, educational as well as employment opportunities for young Maoris, while sustaining Maori performing arts.

Activities and programmes of KMDT...
Kahurangi does 400 performances annually. We have one of the most extensive school-touring programmes in the World. Since our establishment, more than 300 young people have passed out and some graduates perform full-time with Kahurangi. At present we have eighteen full-time performers. My role with Kahurangi is to find new markets for our organization. Eighty percent of our income comes directly from performances and the rest from sponsorships.

Main purpose of KMDT touring India...
This visit was two-fold. First it ’s the 20th Anniversary of our group and we wanted to mark a milestone in our company ’s history by doing something extraordinary, so we decided to come to Apni Dharati : Our Earth, an indigenous festival, to interact with other tribal groups in India and learn from them. During our visit in India we performed in 20 schools and our programme was very well-received. We have seen that school touring in India is untapped. It has great potential and is a medium of education that schools here indicated they wanted. We also feel that we can assist Indian tribal groups for school touring programmes.

Impressions of your troupe’s first visit to India...
The spicy food was quite a challenge for our performers. We met a lot of Indians, who were very hospitable and friendly. The poverty here made a huge impression on the members. Everything in India was totally beyond their experience.

Any similarities you observed amongst the various indigenous groups during ’Apni Dharati 2003’...
Different languages, dresses, songs and dance, but we actually speak the same language. Our songs and dances are to thank the Creator, to celebrate the seasons and our natural surroundings. We also laugh at the same jokes. I think at Apni Dharati there were a lot of positive relationships built outside performances and conference time. And when we took time to enjoy the songs and dances, we could see tribal people ’s values and respect for their environment and heritage. I found those times were invaluable and in today ’s world we tend to trivialize indigenous songs and dances but the answers to our environmental problems are present in the songs and dances. I think by listening to the rituals and chants one can really hear nature talking to them and this transcends entertainment. In most environmental conferences everyone is talking but no one is listening. And majority cultures need to relearn to be good listeners; indigenous people also need to ensure that they can interpret their traditions proudly.

Kahurangi Maori Dance Theater

Your suggestions for preserving indigenous tribal culture and learning systems in India...
During Apni Dharati I met many Indian youth and I am quite heartened by their fresh outlook on indigenous knowledge with their concern for environment. So I see in future years they will be more supportive than their parents. They can see the links between environment, indigenous knowledge and culture. And they can see that our world would be better for it.