Flaxmere Kapa Haka group Te Tono a Te Taurapa fascinated crowds across Italy as they've just completed a world tour.

The group performed at three international folk music festivals in Venice, Udine and Russi, with festival directors saving the group's performance for last.

"There was definitely a fascination for the Māori culture over there," Thompson Hokianga said.

"At each festival, organisers wanted to mix it up so groups' could decide if they wanted to go first, second or third, but in the end it was decided that New Zealand always went last.


"Other performances either had a band playing, a dance or just singers.

"With Kapa Haka, there are musicians, dancers and vocalists.

"There's variety," said Alayna Hokianga. "You have poi, you have haka, so people were just like 'wow' when they saw it."

The group performed alongside groups from countries including Mexico, Poland, Ecuador and Italy, and their eyes were opened to new philosophies, history and experiences.

"They loved it," Alayna said. "They loved experiencing all the different cultures, and different traditions compared to what we're used to.

"The Mexico group was really entertaining and our group got on really well with them. They were teaching each other different languages and songs.

"There were language barriers though, so we had our guides and they were really helpful."

The couple were still recovering from jet lag upon their return, after spending nearly three weeks from mid July to early August in Italy, performing live in front of captivated audiences.

The group was founded by Hokianga and his wife in Flaxmere, after parents and guardians expressed a keen desire for the creation of a community Kapa Haka group.

"They wanted to reignite their fires of Kapa Haka performing," he said.

"After all the feedback from parents, we thought we would get something going and it just grew from there."

In order to build both experience and confidence, the group began performing at local events such as birthdays and weddings to grow awareness within the community.

When asked how the group ended up performing in Europe, the couple said they were lucky enough to extensively travel with another Kapa Haka group in 2017.

"They asked if we would like to take a group over, but we thought we'd like to go over and experience it first before throwing our lot into the deep end."

They travelled with the group to the Netherlands and spent two weeks performing in front of audiences, upon returning home they decided they would take Te Tono a Te Taurapa in 2018 to a smaller festival.

"We kept an eye on what different festival directors from different countries would do. Netherlands were huge because they had between 10 and 15 groups performing.

"The Italian festivals were a lot smaller so we thought it would be a good start for our group and it was a huge success."

The funding for the group's travel was thanks to a huge community effort around Flaxmere and Hastings.

"There were plenty of fundraisers and raffles to get us there, so we're just really grateful to all those who helped us."

Since their performance, the group has been invited to Mexico and Ecuador Festivals as well as a return trip to Italy planned for 2020.