Te Matatini a nursery for Māori businesses

  • 23/02/2023
May Barber prepares a paua fritter for a hungry customer
May Barber prepares a paua fritter for a hungry customer Photo credit: Newshub

The number of vendors at the Te Matatini kapa haka festival has more than doubled this year, with about 150 setting up camp at Auckland's Eden Park.

Stalls range from food, health, education, and government agencies.

The surge in participation from New Zealand businesses is coupled with an increase in bilingualism in the marketplace itself, says Te Matatini chief executive Carl Ross, referring to Te Matatini theme 'normalisation of reo in the marketplace'. 

"Our stallholders will play an integral role. They'll help encourage and promote te reo Māori by having bilingual menus, products, and price lists, staff who can kōrero Māori and other resources."

To feed the hungry crowds this year, an array of traditional and non-traditional foods are available.


The famished spectator can find May Barber and her team, cooking paua, whitebait, and mussel fritters. But you'll have to get in fast, as lines are long in front of food vendors.

True to the theme, signs posted outside most stalls are written in English and te reo Māori.

With day two of Te Matatini wrapping up in a few short hours, Te Kura kaupapa Māori o Pukemiro teacher Esther Amstrong and Lavinia Wynyard have prepared dozens of the classic Kiwi favourite - toffee apples. 


Lovinia Wynyard and Esther Armstrong sell toffee apples to Te Matatini crowds
Lovinia Wynyard and Esther Armstrong sell toffee apples to Te Matatini crowds Photo credit: Newshub


A number of apparel and gift stalls stud the marketplace too and tucked into one corner is a stall that isn't selling anything at all.

Amber Curreen, playwright and actress from the Hokianga, is heading Te Pou theatre, a new production company, venue and whare whakaari (theatre house) that combines Māori culture and circus theatre.

Her stall introduces children to circus activities and promotes the combination of Māori culture in circus spaces.

As children and adults familiarise themselves with dragon sticks and hula hoops at the front of the stall, Curreen hopes to attract talent for an upcoming circus school, which opens in July.

"We've found Māori are interested in circus theatre, so being able to have Māori-led circus spaces, where they are comfortable enough to do it, is the goal."


Te Pou Theatre's Amber Curreen
Te Pou Theatre's Amber Curreen Photo credit: Newshub

Curreen encourages play and cultural expression. She is eager to get kids practising with stilts and remaining close to their culture.

"When you're in a space that's for you, that's culturally for you, it feels good. We've got kids who are really keen on learning this kind of mahi."

Stalls at Te Matatini close at the end of Saturday finals.