Correction – we mistakenly referred to Anuja as Indian, this should have been Sri Lankan, our apologies!
A 12 year old Sri Lankan boy from Rotorua has embraced the Maori culture and recently performed with his school at their Kapa Haka competition on Oct 27.
Anuja Palihawadana who attends Mokoia Intermediate School is originally from Sri Lanka and has been living in New Zealand for two and a half years.
He has been doing kapa haka since shortly after he arrived in New Zealand when he was a student at West End Primary School & Devon Intermediate School in New Plymouth.
Anuja said he is very interested in te reo Maori and he did the kapa haka competition because he wanted to be a part of representing his school.
Performing made me feel really happy and I want to keep doing kapa haka when I go to high school,” he said.
Wharekahika Clarke, Mokoia Kapa haka tutor said he selected Anuja for the kapa haka because he was a good strong singer and showed a lot of commitment.
“Over the last four months Anuja has started to understand the culture more and in time he will grasp and come to grips with tikanga Maori,” he said.
Mr Clarke said he was impressed not only with Anujas participation and involvement in Maori culture but also to see the passion coming through during his performance.
“He stood out to me by far, particularly in the haka,” he said. “He may not be Maori but he sure performed like one. He’s a real haka man.”
Kapa haka Judge, Raimona Pene said when he sees or hears that kapa haka has grasped the interest of people other than Maori, he is overwhelmed with pride.
Knowing that, the very essence of manaakitanga that flows so freely within the kapa haka environment reaches and connects with like spirited people,” he said.
Anuja’s dad, Ajantha Palihawadana said his son was fascinated with the Maori culture and he likes to help represent their talents.
“I was very proud to watch Anuja and his group’s abilities when they performed at the kapa haka on the weekend,” he said.