Keri Kaa was born in Rangitukia near the East Cape, the tenth child of the Rev. Tipi and Hohi Kaa. She was educated at Rangitukia Māori School, Queen Victoria School, Auckland Girls’ Grammar School, and in 1961 was an American Field Service Scholar. Keri furthered her studies at Ardmore Teachers’ College where she was the first woman to hold the position of College President. She graduated from the college in 1963. Keri subsequently taught Māori in both primary and secondary schools and worked as a Māori Language and Tikanga teacher. From September 1979 to December 1998 Keri taught at Wellington College of Education/Te Whanau o Ako Pai ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and was Senior Lecturer in Māori Studies, chair of ASTE at the College of Education and member of the College Council.
Keri has been a tutor and cultural adviser to the New Zealand Drama School, was a founder and co-ordinator of Haeata Māori Women’s Artists Collective (now retired), was a member of the New Zealand Film Commission and was on the Short Film Fund for eight years. She is a former member of the Fullbright Board of the NZ/US Educational Foundation. After thirty-five years teaching in various institutions in Wellington, Keri returned back to her home on the East Coast. Prior to leaving Wellington, she co-directed Sing Whale: He Apakura Tohorā with Sunny Amey and Jan Bolwell for the 1998 International Festival and this was the final production in their trilogy of works for stage.
In June 1994 she gave an address and took part in a panel discussion at the Eighth International Congress “Social and Political Change” of the International Society of Performing Arts Administrators (ISPAA) which was held in Sydney.
In 2000 she worked with a team of people to complete the final draft of the new Arts Curriculum based on Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts. Currently she is a ministerial appointee to the National Library Board (2000-2003), Te Waka Toi (2001-2005), UNESCO Commission (2002-), DANZ - Welfare and service agency for Dancers (2000-), Advisory Groups, Komiti Māori National Library (2000-), Te Ara Ministry of Culture and Heritage (2001-), Dictionary of NZ Biography on-line nine year project, and Tairawhiti Museum Gisborne representing Ngāti Porou interests (2002-).
Keri writes poetry, waiata, haka, patere, non-fiction articles, children’s writing, translations, and school journals for Learning Media. She also writes reviews for books, plays and productions. She has written work for Totika Publications and has produced writing for Te Reo Māori Kura Kaupapa. She is currently working on a series of new poems in English and has recently completed a children’s story in Māori and English. She has attended writing workshops at Tapu te Ranga Marae in Wellington, has worked on the Māori version of Paikea with Robyn Kahukiwa, and has completed research on Māori Performing Arts at a Masters level. She states “I write poetry mainly, really just for myself, for my own amusement, out of anger, or because something has moved me. I used to write the usual sort of tirades about broadcasting, education and social issues, but then I decided that the one thing that’s lacking in the tension of race relations is humour. So I started writing some comical stuff.”
- Correspondence from Keri Kaa on 7 Jan. 1998, 4 Oct. 2004 and 3 Apr. 2005.
- Te Ao Hou (1963): 34.
- Celebrating Women: New Zealand Women and Their Stories. Produced by Mediawomen of New Zealand. Whatamongo Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, N.Z.: Cape Catley, 1984. 158-161.
- International Society of Performing Arts Administrators Foundation Forum 18.2 Special edition (1994/5?): 25-32.