6 am. The day is rising on the sacred island of Mokoia in New Zealand. Koro Mita a local Maori figure, is welcoming this new day. He is the intiator of a special camp in New Zealand: the "taiaha training camp". During the next 4 days, a group of young Maori will be taught the use of the "taiaha" through the practice of a traditionnal Maori martial art: "Mau Rakau". Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
The taiaha training camp of Mokoia Island represents an important step in the life of a young Maori and it is known to be hard. Discipline and spirituality will be the bottom line of this great experience. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Like every morning at the Mokoia training camp, the group walks to the top of the island to feel the "mana" (spiritual power) of the sacred island of Mokoia. A moment in time to evoke the ancestors and pray before a challenging day. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Several tutors are suppervising these kids aged between 6 and 18 years old. Rewiti, one of them, makes a point of honour to speak in "te reo", the traditional language that disappeared through decades among Maori communities. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Tamahau, 16 years old, gives a great importance to the learning of the taiaha and its culture whome enable him to "connect with his ancestors". Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Brake. This camp is also a great opportunity to make new friends and exange with kids coming from all different parts of New Zealand. Their taiaha (fighting stick) is never far away… Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
This young Maori boy repeats tirelessly the basic taiaha parades learnt during the day. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Early morning hike. Koro Mita, the camp initiator believes in the "healing power" of the taiaha. Indeed if some of these kids have real school and/or family issues, learning a traditionnal martial art in a place like Mokoia often gives them a direction and help them to build their self-estime back. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Repeating the basic moves again and again to become a good taiaha "fighter". If any one drop his taiaha (stick), the whole group has to do a series of push ups. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
On their ancestors's foot step. If in the past the taiaha was used during tribal wars, nowadays it found it's contemporary use in "kapa haka" performances, a wide range of Maori traditional line dances. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Days after days, moves are getting sharper. Some of these kids take this camp very seriously. In a few days their family will come on the Iisland to watch them perfroming. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
At the end of these few days of training, the best "fighters" will be rewarded. In addition to the control of the taiaha, personal investment in daily life and personality of each account in the judgment. Some will also become apprentices "tutor" to train other young people to the practice of the taiaha. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Lining up for the "kai" (meal). Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Mokoia peaceful time. After diner everyone gathers around the bonfire to talk about the day, tell of legends and sing. Living conditions are very basic on Mokoia: neither water nor electricity. For some of the children from the city, the experience seems to be difficult. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Koro Mita gives final recommendations to the kids before they start performing the "haka pohiri" (welcoming dance). Indeed, as part of the tuition, kids learnt a series of haka (dance) and chants. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
The "family day" marks the last day of the camp. Time for the kids to show to their "whanau" (family, clan) the taiaha parades and the "haka" learnt during this journey. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Group performance of taiaha moves, bare feet and topless like the custom wants. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Haka in honour of "Ranginui", the Father Sky. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
Then comes the award ceremony. These 3 teenagers are rewarded with the position of "apprentice tutor". During their next camp on Mokoia, they will be teaching taiaha moves to the younger ones. Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.
If it's true that initiatives enhancing Maori culture flurish here and there in order to integrate gradually the New Zealand landscape, the road is still long in the full emancipation of the Maori people. The social gap with the "Pakeha" (new-zealanders born from the English colonization) is still wide and the difficulties related to this status are important. The power of taiaha might lead this child to become one of the futur representative of an emerging nation… Mokoia Isld, NZ, 2008.