Te Matatini Herenga Waka Herenga Tāngata was held last week in Ttāmaki Makaurau with 45 kapa haka groups competing over four days in the biggest Māori cultural festival in the world.
Muriwhenua was first to take the stage and was one of the groups to receive $10,000 since its members came from the furthest reaches of cyclone-ravaged Northland to participate in the festival.
On Auckland's North Shore of Auckland, while everyone was snuggled in their bed, Muriwhenua members arose in the early hours a
t 3am to be ready to set foot on the stage as the first team for Te Matatini.
“Our team's ready, we're ready to bring it. We are ready to do the best we can. We are ready to represent our whānau and everyone,” performer Hera Te Kurapa said.
“I think the motu (country) o Aotearoa has been waiting for Matatini, so it just feels right. It feels right to go first being the most northern team from Muriwhenua, representing the five iwi (tribes). It just feels right to go first so I couldn't think of any other spot. Well, that's what we got to tell ourselves aye.”
Cyclone Gabrielle has made it hard for the team members to meet but that never stopped them from trying.
“I'm feeling good. I'm feeling ready. It's been a really long campaign, we've had so many things thrown at us whether that be the weather, well actually that's been the biggest, has been the weather.”
“A lot of our members travel, so that's been a huge obstacle for us but we always find a way. We find a way because we love what we do.”
Being the first team to perform does have advantages and Muriwhenua members have plans to spend time with their whānau who have supported them.
“We have a lot of members that have other whānau in other rōpū so being there to represent our Tai Tokerau and being present when they perform to ensure they know we are there for them as well and just basically downtime, whānau time as well giving back to our whānau having all of our babies and husbands and wifes all coming to visit us after we perform so the whānau are ready to see everybody but over the next couple of days it's probably just chill time until we know the results.”