Story: Kapa Haka

Tinirau and Kae

Tinirau and Kae

In Māori tradition, the great Taranaki chief Tinirau fell out with his tohunga, Kae, who killed and ate Tinirau’s pet whale, Tutunui, then escaped to avoid punishment. To locate him, Tinirau sent a kapa haka to his village. Their performance was so irresistible that Kae smiled broadly, revealing his distinctive overlapping teeth and sealing his fate.  

This photo shows ‘Garden of Tutunui’, a large sculpture of a whale skeleton designed by Kim Jarrett in 2006. It was permanently installed at Pātea in 2009.

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Photograph by Amy C. Mills

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How to cite this page:

Valance Smith, 'Kapa Haka - What is kapa haka?', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 April 2024)

Story by Valance Smith, published 22 Oct 2014, reviewed & revised 9 Feb 2023