Two renowned Maori artists who died last year will be honoured in the Toi Ngapuhi Maori Arts Exhibition, a flagship of the Ngapuhi Festival.

Prominent artist Manos Nathan passed away last September and a week later the world of Maori arts also lost prominent Dargaville artist Colleen Waata-Urlich - the founding curator of Toi Ngapuhi.

BJ Ewen, Toi Ngapuhi spokesman and exhibitor, said organising this year's exhibition had evoked mixed emotions.

"It has had its moments. It is still pretty raw but the thing that is holding us together is the legacy they left behind. This exhibition has been set up with a focus on their legacy," he said.


Mr Ewen said the first exhibition was in 2006 and focused on korowai (cloaks). The input of Ms Waata-Urlich changed the game.

"She brought in this entire Te Tai Tokerau Maori arts collective and it had grown.

"Colleen and Manos ensured that the ethos, culture and quality of artwork on display was exemplary and that the best of Ngapuhi was represented."

The exhibition at Northland College will have a special place dedicated to Mr Nathan and Ms Waata-Urlich displaying a collection of their work.

"When we opened their art, everyone had to take a breath. It has been the elephant in the room but at the same time we have shared memories and laughs. This is definitely part of the grieving process and has helped bring this emotion to the forefront and it has been very therapeutic."

The theme for the exhibition is "Wahine Toa" inspired by artist Maureen Lander and her works exhibited at the Alexander Turnbull Library of Hariata Rongo - daughter of Hongi Hika and wife of Hone Heke.

Meanwhile, on Saturday and Sunday more than 40,000 people are expected to descend on Northland College's grounds for the Ngapuhi Festival. The event has been running since 2004 and will be streamed online.

"Even though we get 40,000 plus people coming, there is a whole heap more who can't come. By streaming it we can share the spirit of the festival," said event spokesman Tio Taiaki.

Mr Taiaki said there will be fixed cameras on the stage, and roaming cameras so viewers get a real feel for the event.

Local performers will include Troy Kingi, Kauwiti Selwyn and guests, Hatea Kapa Haka, Muriwhenua Kapa Haka group and more.

The festival runs from 7.30am Saturday and 9.15am on Sunday.