Mika Haka Foundation: Performing Empowerment
Mika is famous for his boundary-bursting performances, and as a lifestyle liberationist who has used his brand more to create social change than to campaign for an Oscar. Working with young people, including those who might be termed ‘at risk’, has always been at his core, even if he’s kept that kind of work predominantly ‘in the closet’. He auditions them, trains them up, enforces health literacy, financial literacy and political and cultural awareness, whilst teaching them how to sing, dance, act and manage themselves onstage and off. He transforms these young people into ‘emerging leaders’, invests them with social capital and encourages them to perform their own empowerment. He’s been doing this a very long time, in fact: from the early 1980s in Christchurch with the Coloured Crew Lockers to his creation of Torotoro in the early 2000s, and now under the auspices of the Mika Haka Foundation. The images here offer a glimpse into Mika’s current collaborations, which will be the topic of a conversation between Mika and Pare Keiha, the Chair of the Mika Haka Foundation Trust Board, as moderated by Sharon Mazer at the Ka Haka Empowering Performance: Māori and Indigenous Performance Studies Symposium. We ask: how does educating young people as entrepreneurial entertainers potentially lead to their emancipation?