The Maori Kiingitanga is today mourning the loss of one of its own, the sister of King Tuheitia, Tomairangi Paki.
In a statement released by Turangawaewae Marae, it was confirmed she died peacefully this morning. She was 63.
“Kiingi Tuheitia and the Kiingitanga are deeply saddened to share with you that his older sister Kiritokia ete Tomairangi (known as Tomairangi) Adrianne Gail Paki passed away peacefully this morning.”
The older sister of the Maori King, she was well-known for her love and ongoing work in performing arts, particularly in kapa haka for the Waikato/Tainui region.
Last year that work was honoured when she was given the Life Member award from the Tainui Cultural Trust.
Paki had been a staunch and passionate supporter of kapa haka for more than four decades; continuing the passion held by her and the King’s late mother, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu.
Paki was a tutor for the respected Taniwharau kapa haka group back in the 1980s.
In 1981, the group, which was originally formed to support the Maori Queen, took out the top honours at the then-New Zealand Polynesian Festival; now known as Te Matatini.
Old video footage of that winning performance shows her in her prime: at the front, in the middle, singly loudly and leading the group with pride.
Taniwharau would later go on to travel to Europe to accompany and support the Maori Queen through their kapa haka performances.
Jason Kereopa, among the new generation of Taniwharau members, paid tribute to a woman who was not only royalty among Maori, but royalty within kapa haka.
“She’s a stalwart of the league of kapa haka, especially in Huntly,” he told the Herald.
“We’re only a little place, but we’re rich in kaupapa. Growing up, we had our Taniwharau roopu, they were kaumatua and she led them.
“She was the leader and she took them to the heights of kapa haka back in the day.”
Taniwharau would be dis-established by the late 1980s, but would be revised again by a new generation in the ’90s.
Kereopa said Paki remained close to the group; teaching and offering advice that brought power and finesse to their performances, he said.
“She was strict and straight to the point. Those of us who understand this kind of tutorship; that’s exactly what we wanted.
“She was a beautiful woman and if you had time to sit with her, she would share a lot of her experiences about kapa haka.”
In later years, she suffered the effects of stroke, but that did not stop her from her role in offering advice and what Kereopa described as her “quick-minded wit.”
Paki will be taken to Te Puea Marae in Mangere, South Auckland, later this afternoon.
She will lie in state there before being taken to Waahi Pa, in Huntly, tomorrow; where her tangi will be held.
Despite the sad news, Kereopa said they were expecting a huge celebration for her life in the coming days.
“In the end, there’s mourning and then there’s celebration,” he said.
“We will celebrate her life, and there’ll be a high percentage of kapa haka, celebrating through haka.
“She deserves it.”
– NZ Herald