Heperi Harris (Ngāti Mutunga, Tuwharetoa) has had a busy time the last few months, juggling his job as an academic staff member at Christchurch Polytechnic with organising the revival of an old Māori ball game, ki-o-rahi.. It all cuminated in a fast-paced tournament on April 3 at Linfield Park, organised and refereed by CPIT’s Toa Sports students, as part of their course qualification. Half a dozen Canterbury Schools got together for the play-off, which was a chance for Heperi to take ki-o-rahi to the community. He hopes it’s the first step towards establishing an annual tournament and he’s keen to form a Canterbury team to compete at national level as well.
Heperi describes ki-o-rahi as a cross between handball, touch rugby and netball. It’s played with two teams of seven players and a circular field divided into zones. There are two types of players: kioma, who can run with the ki (ball) and score points by touching the ‘pou’ (boundary markers); and taniwha players, who score by hitting a central ‘tupu’ (target). “It’s a great game for hooking rangitahi into their culture. It’s very active and it involves them in tikanga Māori. It’s good that they can learn a sport of their own that they can be proud of,” Heperi says.
Ki-o-rahi has long been played in the North Island and is particularly popular with Ngāti Porou in Eastland and the Northland tribes. There is an annual national tournament and the game is also played in Italy, France where it is believed soldiers from the 28th Māori Battalion introduced the sport in World War II. It is also played in USA. It’s origins are believed to be pre-European and tribe members used a woven flax ball, or ki, for the game. Some believe rugby has its origins in ki-o-rahi. You can read more about it at www.kiorahi.co.nz