An indigenous South African king learning about Maori culture made his first trip to Northland where he was "taken aback" by the region's history.

Basil Coetzee, a king of the Khoisan tribe in South Africa, was invited to New Zealand by a South African music group - The Auckland City Dukes - and has been in the country since November.

On Thursday, Mr Coetzee ended up in Whangarei at Pehiaweri Marae after kaumatua Bill Tangariki invited the king and other indigenous South Africans to Northland.

"He has been welcomed on in Tamaki Makaurau but he had never been to Northland. We had talked about the Treaty of Waitangi and its history so I thought to invite him here. I think first of all it is about whakawhanaungatanga and sharing culture," said Mr Tangariki.

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Mr Tangariki has been connected to the Auckland City Dukes for about 10 years, after his love of sports led him to meet South African man Waggie Routhawan who was the sports director at Hoani Waititi Marae.

Mr Tangariki said the king was in the country to learn about Maori culture and take the knowledge he gained back to South Africa.

He was formally welcomed on to Pehiaweri Marae by powhiri.

"Basil had the opportunity to reply and gave his mihi and the people he was with stood up and sang a waiata to support Basil. He said he could relate to the strong tradition and culture displayed but said the Treaty was quite different because of course they don't have that. He said it has been a long struggle for them, even when Nelson Mandela was alive. He was quite taken aback," said Mr Tangariki.

Mr Tangariki said he showed Mr Coetzee and the group of South Africans around the marae and told them about the history.

Mr Coetzee's trip is being filmed and will be shown back in South Africa.