Dr Te Rita Bernadette Papesch
Te Rita is of Waikato-Maniapoto, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whakaue and Czech descent. She was born and raised in Pirongia, in a family of ten siblings, by her parents and maternal grandfather. Her family encouraged her to pursue education and a musical career which began with studying classical piano and singing. She gave birth to seven children who became her focus in life. This meant a change in direction to studying Māori music under the guidance of her family, Canon Wi Te Tau Huata, Dr. Hirini Melbourne and Dr. Timoti Kāretu, plus many others. From 1970 onwards Kapa Haka became her passion and she now sits as the matriarch, sometimes composer and tutor, to her children and grandchildren’s Kapa Haka group, Te Haona Kaha. Most of her working life has been in the field of education in the secondary and tertiary sectors. She currently lectures in the Master of Applied Indigenous Knowledge degree at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa at Mangakōtukutuku Campus in Hamilton.
Te Rita is a co-founder of Te Puna Toi (est. 2001) and helped provide the project with its purpose and direction. A collaborator in Free Theatre productions The Last Days Of Mankind, Footprints/Tapuwae 1 & 2 and Remake, Te Rita has provided a fundamental backbone to the company's work, development and innovation.