5 Mar 2015

Te Matatini off to flying start

6:17 am on 5 March 2015

The national kapa haka contest, Te Matatini, gets underway in Christchurch this morning.

Te Matatini

Te Matatini Photo: RNZ

Over the next four days, 1800 performers in 45 kapa haka groups will compete to become the national Maori performing arts champion.

A powhiri in Hagley Park yesterday attracted an audience of 5,000 people - a warm welcome to competing groups who have come from around New Zealand and even Australia.

Nigo Maruera, a member of the group Karinga from Palmerston North, said her group was thrilled, especially as it was to be the first to perform.

"Our group's excited, they're all pumped and ready, being first up, looking forward to it. All the hard work we've put in, it's finally going to pay off!"

Kahurangi Simon is the chairperson and a tutor for the Te Matapihi team from Whanganui, and said it was great to be part of the competition.

"It's a very emotional one for the whanau, as our cousin and father, who were both longtime performers in their group, have both died in the past year."

"We lost her twelve months ago. Not long after her was our dad, who was major to our team and our distirict, as a composer, as a poet, as a teacher, and of course as our dad - not just for my brothers and sisters, but for many of our relations.

"This journey is a very spiritual one."

Another visitor to Christchurch from is Cherilyn Pirni of Opotiki, the female leader of the Opotiki Kapa Haka team.

She said the performance marked an important year in her people's history.

"Our performance is dedicated to our ancestor, Moko Moko, who was hanged, unjustly, 150 years ago."

Cherilyn Pirini hoped they would put on a powerful performance.

Lynne Te Aika is a performer for a local Christchurch group, Te Pao A Tahu

"It is an honour for us to have it [Te Matatini] here, and it probably won't be back for another 30 years. I won't be around for that one, but hopefully I've got some grand children, some mokopuna, who will be."

The heats will be held over the next three days and the finals are on Sunday.