HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 587: 2 November 2011

Wordsmith Harawira visits Rarotonga
Tihei Harawira, son of controversial political figure Hone Harawira, is a freestyler (an MC who raps improvised verses whilst still maintaining poetic and rhythmic flow) and photographer whose experiences have helped to shape him into a talented and colourful character. Harawira is visiting Rarotonga for the Sevens in Heaven International Rugby Sevens Tournament, where he will be doing the photography for local rugby sevens team, The Vikings. “I’ve been doing photography for about 10 years now. I went over to Scotland with the Cook Island touch team and we went mad! I took about 1600 photos at the tournament.”
Tihei Harawira is of New Zealand Maori descent and was born in South Auckland. He lived in Otara until he was three years old, after which he lived in Te Kao in Northland of New Zealand. “That’s the only place I call home.” He comes from a family whom he describes as “radicals” who were active in major protests. “We like being on the frontline. Fighting at Waitangi Day, Bastion Point, the march to Wellington from Kaitaia – all that stuff, I’ve been there. I’ve experienced it all.” Harawira is a descendant of influential Ngapuhi chief, Tamati Waka Nene. He has a four-year-old daughter named Te Oranga.
Harawira blames the media for getting “carried away” where his father, independent MP Hone Harawira, is concerned. “What people think of my father after what they read in the newspaper - some things are not true. He’s not racist. He’s against certain racial policy.” Harawira acknowledged his father’s influence as essential to his success in his freestyling, and life in general. “At the end of the day I thank my father for one thing – for making me be outspoken and [giving] me that encouragement. He’s given me that background in my freestyling that has made it a deciding weapon [for me].”
Harawira’s practice of freestyling currently takes the form of busking. He has been honing his craft for approximately 14 years. He first became enthralled by the art form when he was around the age of 14. “I had no dream, I had nothing going for me, I was basically going in no direction. Then I overheard these two people at an Anglican Church mission just freestyling. That was the first time I’d seen something like that before. I was captivated by it, I was blown away. I thought to myself ‘man, I want to do that one day. I’m going to do it.” Harawira expressed that improving his skills as a freestyler took a lot of hard work. “It took me ages to develop the skill and develop the technique, even create a flow.” But he slowly began to make more of a name for himself through word of mouth, as well as modern mediums such as YouTube. Harawira suggested that Cook Islanders passionate about the spoken-word art form should pursue it since “the best can be found from anywhere in the world.”
His perseverance has been rewarded and he has now performed at a number of higher profile gigs. One of these included opening for Polynesian comedy duo, ‘The Laughing Samoans’, which he thoroughly enjoyed, commenting, “Man, they were funny!” Harawira was also part of a fundraiser for the Christchurch earthquake appeal. “The best time of my life as a musician came this year, when all the musicians from Kaitaia, one little area, got together for Christchurch. It happened three days after the earthquake hit. We [performed] a song and raised $800 in an hour! We gave it to the Salvation Army - definitely a proud moment.”
Harawira is also affected by an Autism Spectrum Disorder. When asked how autism affected him he recalls feeling “behind” in class as a child. Doctors thought he wouldn’t live past the age of five but now at the age of 28, he has exceeded all expectations. Harawira mentioned that while growing up he faced challenges, such as being ridiculed, however family support saw him through that time. He says to parents and families with autistic children “don’t give up on them.” He also wanted to convey to the wider community the importance of acceptance of those with disabilities in general. “Do not disrespect a person with a disability. You don’t know what it is like to be one of them.”
Harawira’s visit to the Cook Islands is perhaps the first of many. “This is my very first time and I love it. I have had a connection with the people here.” Aside from attending the Sevens Tournament, Harawira plans to try and get out and about to meet more people for the remainder of his stay on the island. Of all he has experienced while in the Cook Islands, he declared that the highlight of Rarotonga for him has been the people. “Look at this – the sun, the coconut trees, the people, the community... man, that’s life! This is something I want to be down with.” -Ngariki Ngatae

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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