A community worker and Black Power member has labelled a soon-to-be expanded inter-prison kapa haka competition “a good idea for something that is at the bottom of the cliff”, as he called for Corrections to use cultural connection outside of prisons more often.
The initiative to help connect prisoners with their whakapapa is being launched today by Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis, who told Breakfast that he believes “access to culture is a right, not a privilege”.
The 2021 inter-prison Whakataetae Kapa Haka sees groups prepare and perform for experienced judges who visit each prison and ultimately choose winners across a variety of categories.
Last year’s inaugural competition included five prisons but will expand this year, with all 18 prisons in New Zealand invited to participate.
Community worker and Black Power member Eugene Ryder said reconnecting prisoners with culture is undoubtedly “beneficial”.
I do acknowledge that kapa haka does have an affect on people who haven’t been exposed to that in their lives.
If that kaupapa could be offered to those people before they go to prison, there’s a multitude of kapa haka groups outside of prison and it’s a matter of those kapa haka groups to allow those groups who haven’t connected with their culture
Ryder said he was first-hand evidence of what kapa haka can do for prisoners, having started his own kapa haka journey while in jail.
“One of the things we need to think about is that some people in prison have lost that connection with their culture and so to be able to reconnect with their culture can only be beneficial,” he said.
“I was in prison and started my kapa haka journey in prison, so that gave me an opportunity as an outlet, I suppose — an outlet that didn’t involve anyone getting hurt or anyone getting arrested.
"To be able to do a haka and exert the mana that’s required in that is not only beneficial to men, but also to wāhine involved in that space as well.”