Over the next few weeks The Daily Post senior reporter Greg Taipari will profile the six Te Arawa groups performing at the 21st Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival. This week's group profile is on Kataore
What they lack in experience, they more than make up for in enthusiasm.
The number of performers who have competed at a national level within Kataore can be counted on one hand. But that hasn't stopped the group which has qualified for this year's Te Matatini Nationals being hosted by Te Arawa at Rotorua International Stadium from February 20-24.
Kataore is tutored by Ricky Bishop and Rie Morris. They originally created the group four years ago and it was inspired by the Mokoia Intermediate School kapa haka group. At the time. Mr Bishop used members who were new to kapa haka performing and were parents of past and present students of the school.
Today, the group is still made up of those parents but also of some of the students who originally performed for the intermediate school.
The group's name derives from Kataore, the taniwha (monster) kaitiaki (guardian) of Ngati Pikiao who was the pet taniwha of Ngatoroirangi (high priest on board the Arawa waka).
"We use the name Kataore as our philosophy in our group which is guardianship of our children, our kids," Mr Bishop said.
"We're like a real close-knit group, where a lot of our members are alike, we really look after our tamariki [children] and we've got a real tight bond."
Despite the group being on the kapa haka scene for four years, it is the first time they have qualified for the nationals and go into this year's competition light on national experience. In fact there are only five of the 40 performers who have competed at a Te Matatini competition.
But this hasn't daunted the group from doing their best to represent the iwi, Mr Bishop says.
"We're still shocked to have qualified. You know we've got the big names like Te Mataarae, Tuhourangi and all that.
"So I think for us it was competing with the big names of kapa haka which are those groups and I think that is what made it more shocking for us when we qualified because we are a part of them now."
Mr Bishop said the group had competed at two Te Arawa regionals and they would use their enthusiasm as their main weapon at Te Matatini. He believed it was their enthusiasm which helped them to qualify fourth at last year's regionals.
"We're quite like a greenhorn team. But I think what makes us special is that all our members are keen and hungry for kapa haka as performers. I think what made us different [at the regionals] was we brought the element of story telling into kapa haka, which I suppose is new to kapa haka. I think that's what highlighted our programme from all the other groups' programmes."
The tutor said they enjoyed using stories depicting the history of Te Arawa and Ngati Pikiao as their material for their performances.
"We probably do things that are totally different to all the other groups in regards to whakawhanaungatanga (relationships) that's our guiding philosophy, is whakawhanaungatanga."
Mr Bishop, a former tutor at Makoia Intermediate, has had more than 10 years' experience performing and teaching kapa haka. He has competed at Te Matatini for the Waititi kapa haka group, Ngararanui.
Kataore perform on February 21 and are in the first pool, Te Ihu. It contains two former national title holders, Te Whanau a Apanui and five times national winner Waihirere.
Mr Bishop said the group were realistic about their chances but would perform to win.
"I think our goal has already been achieved, which is making the nationals and so this one here is just a positive really for us. If we make the top nine, well then we'll really be stoked.
"But I think just the opportunity to perform with all the big names is a real honour for us really ... I think it's real special to be there representing our whanau and our iwi."
The tutor said it might be the first time the group performed at a national level but it definitely wouldn't be the last.
This year's competition sees 41 groups vying for to win the Duncan McIntyre Trophy awarded to the overall winner. The groups are divided into three pools with the top three groups going through to the finals.
Pool One - Te Ihu
Te Kotahitanga, Ngaa Pou O Roto, Te Raranga Whanui, Te Whanau a Apanui, Te Toka Tu Manawa, Te Rerenga Kotuku, Opotiki Mai Tawhiti, Nga Purapura o Te Taihauauru, Kataore, Waihirere, Te Manu Huia, Nga Manu Waiata, Nga Tumanako, Te Ropu Haka o Nga Manu a Tane.
Tutors: Piripi Christie, Thomas Wharerau, Ricky Bishop, Rie Morris
Kaitataki tane: Ricky Bishop
Kaitataki wahine: Rie Morris
Placing at Te Arawa Regionals: fourth
Placing at previous Te Matatini Festivals: first appearance.