With the 2020 Te Arawa Kapa Haka Regional Competition only days away, one group Te Hekenga a Rangi is making their debut on Friday. Te Ao was fortunate to be invited to their final training session at Whakaue Marae in Maketu today.
"We abide by two core values, fIrstly, commitment. Selfless commitment to the cause. The second is humility."
Dan Vaka, who is Kaiako and Kaitātaki Tāne, says, "Who are we? We are Te Hekenga a Rangi."
"Pūhaorangi wedded Te Kura-i-Monoa. They begat Ohomairangi. From Ohomairangi came Te Hekenga a Rangi, their many descendants."
The group draws members primarily from Rotorua but also from further afield.
"Most performers are from Rotorua. Some travel from Auckland, Hamilton, even as far as Whitianga," Rapu Pou (Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi) says.
They are looking forward to making their debut as a rōpū in just a few days time.
"We're excited, some are shaking in their boots," Pou says.
Although the group may be taking centre stage at the Te Arawa regionals for the first time, many of its members are experienced performers.
"We are the new kids on the block but most of our performers are seasoned in the art of competition," Vaka says.
They are grateful for the support they have received from the many who are wishing them well.
"We're not well off. Fortunately for us, Te Iti Kahurangi have allowed us to use their piupiu. So we will carry their goodwill on stage with us."
There are whānau who are also lending the group a helping hand.
"Our role is to make sure our rōpū is fed well so they have energy to continue their training throughout the day," Sandra Walker says.
Another of the whānau says, "We like to give them some veggies and just keep them healthy. They're a neat group, really neat, so proud of them. They bring a tear to the eye."
The dream is to make nationals but being together as a rōpū is its own reward.
"Our goal is to qualify for Te Matatini, that's what every group is striving for. But it's also about the experience, the journey is the reward," Vaka says.