Thousands of New Zealanders are expected to come together to celebrate Waitangi Day in Kāwhia this year by enjoying a traditional hāngi of mega proportions on Saturday, February 2.
Hāngi teams from four local marae at Kāwhia are digging huge earth-oven pits to cook hundreds of portions of meat and vegetables. Cooked underground in their own juices over several hours, the tasty meals are a huge favourite with visitors and always sell out says Festival organiser, Hinga Whiu.
“Preparation of the hāngi feast involves weeks of work and brings the whole community together,” says Hinga.
“As each hāngi portion is served up in a kono – a traditional basket of woven flax – there are teams getting together on the marae to weave the kono in the weeks leading up to the festival. It’s wonderful to see the older teaching the younger the traditional art of weaving – and having a great korero full of humour while doing it!”
While hāngi is a crowd favourite, there is also a wide variety of other traditional kai to be sampled such as Toroi (Marinated mussels and pūhā), Creamed Pāua and Kina, Īnanga (Whitebait patties), Kānga Wai/Pirau (Fermented corn), Pūhā and pork spring rolls, Pāwhara (Smoked fish and eel) as well as the local Waikato delicacy – Kōkī (Shark liver pate).
“The Kawhia Kai Festival is a day for all New Zealanders to come together and celebrate Waitangi Day over yummy kai and a great line up of entertainment,” says Hinga.
Brisbane-based reggae band Darky Roots is crossing the ditch to be the headline act with an eight-piece band performing a distinct sunshine roots reggae sound. The MC will be Māori TV personality Kōtuku Tibble who will introduce a full-day’s entertainment including kapa-haka groups Ngāti Māhanga Whānui who are based in Hamilton and Whatawhata, Te Haona Kaha who are based in Pirongia and Te Awamutu, and Te Roopu Kapahaka o Nōera who are made up of students from Nawton Primary School and are a big crowd favourite.
Bands performing during the day include local Kāwhia groups Tukutuku, as well as Holly & The Blue Benders who will also feature world renowned French harmonica player Christelle Berthon and Regan Campbell who was the former lead guitarist with Cornerstone Roots.
While all these groups will be performing to the approximately seven thousand visitors expect to come to the Festival to sample traditional and contemporary Māori kai being offered from some 25 food stalls.
Held on Ōmiti Park reserve on the shores of Kāwhia Harbour on the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, the Festival offers more than just food with legendary Māori hospitality, entertainment as well as arts & crafts provided throughout the one-day Festival.
Even the Festival’s venue is designed along the lines of a traditional Māori village. Visitors enter through a carved waharoa (gateway) – and the whole site is surrounded by fences made from manuka.
Attracting New Zealanders and international visitors of all ages and backgrounds, gate entry will be $10 for adults, and $2 for those 12 years and under.