Pacific students take political message to hip hop stage
Auckland, NEW ZEALAND — When students of Manurewa High School in South Auckland were told earlier this year the school would participate in this week's international hip hop dance championships, more than 100 children signed up for the auditions.
Only 40 made the final cut and they agreed their theme would be "Breaking News".
They would tell their stories of life in one of New Zealand's roughest and toughest places - through the art of music and dance.
Then Christchurch happened.
Christine Rovoi reports.
When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the nation about the terrorist attacks in Christchurch she said that those shot on that fateful Friday - "They are us".
For 13-year-old Manurewa High student, Kirisome Muaau, those three words are now etched in his heart.
The year 9 student, from Samoa, says he is still trying to make sense of what happened on March 15.
Last night, he and his Rewa All Stars crew took to the stage with a special message.
"We're doing this for Christchurch. For the people who passed away. (What has Christchurch taught you?) Never lose hope and keep praying. And forgive people who have done this stuff."
Their dance teacher Mele Taeiloa says the children decided to keep their theme of Breaking News incorporating their idea of sharing their stories with the killings in Christchurch.
She says excerpts from prime minister Ardern's speech including "our legacy is to be kind to one another" was incorporated into Rewa's performance.
"This year they have decided to go with a political message. They are reflecting on what happened in Christchurch and the way they felt. And they've take that concept and putting it into their peace and delivering a message through that to support their friends and our community and the Muslim students in our school."
Ms Taeiloa, from Tonga, says students range from year 9 to 13 and come from Maori and Pacific backgrounds.
Groups from the Pacific made up some of the more than 100 dance crews this week including Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
The Fijian group, Mata which means clan or unit, took to the stage last night for the first time in the competition.
Senimili Banivanua, 17, from Lau, says their dance styles consist of what hip-hop means to young Fijians but they also want to stay true to their culture.
"Of us to represent our country because even though we do not have more stunts and all, I feel like we have the energy and the execution and I'm really proud and I know that the whole of Fiji will probably love this and we're just doing it for them."
Ms Banivanua says it's been a huge learning experience for the islanders and they hope to pass on their skills to other dancers in Fiji.
The event organiser Tarsh Kemp says hip hop is growing in NZ and the Pacific - with eight teams from the islands featuring this year compared to two last year.
"Running for the second year in a row. We have crews from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Papua New Guinea. It was such an emotional night for them - coming to compete. But to show their families how proud they are of their culture and their island."
The finals will be held tonight.
The winner will represent NZ and the Pacific at the World Hip Hop Championships in Phoenix, Arizona in August.