23 Feb 2017

Te Matatini: 'All the blood, sweat and tears are worth it'

6:47 pm on 23 February 2017

Hundreds of excited kapa haka performers have strutted their stuff on the first day of biennial national competition Te Matatini.

Some of the performers at the Te Matatini national Kapa Haka competition.

Some of the performers at Te Matatini 2017: The competition, which showcases the best haka performers in the world, is held every two years. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Te Matatini is a showcase of the best haka performers in the world, and more than 1800 of them have gathered in Hastings in a bid to win the supreme title of Toa Whakaihuwaka.

The first pool of teams performed at Te Matatini today, but only three out of the 15 groups will make the final on Sunday.

Some of the kaihaka are experienced seasoned performers, but Hikawai Te Nahu, 15, from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ruamata was on the national stage for the first time.

He performed for Rotorua group Ngāti Rangiwewehi and said he came off stage feeling only one thing.

"It was really overwhelming but it was a great experience, I really drew all the energy from the crowd and I absolutely loved it."

The last time the competition was held in Hawke's Bay was in 1983 and Ngāti Rangiwewehi won the title then, something not lost on former group member Eraia Kiel.

"It was awesome to see them wearing the tapeka (sash). It's special for us since we won it here in 1983."

Mr Kiel said it was hard to be a watcher and not a performer this year. Kapa haka had many benefits, he said.

"No matter who you are - Māori or non-Māori - people can feel there is something very special about our culture, it just touches everybody from around the world."

All 47 groups have practised for months but Hikawai said he would not have it any other way.

"It was worth it, all the blood, sweat and tears, all the weekend wananga were all worth it, for 20 minutes on stage, it brought a smile to my face and pride to my heart, I loved this entire journey."

The second pool of 16 groups will make the stage shake tomorrow.

The entrance to the Te Matatini Kapa haka national competition.

Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

The stage and crowd space at Te Matatini.

Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

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