Te Tai Tokerau will be showcased to the world through kapa haka as three groups head to Wellington to compete at the prestigious Te Matatini.
Muriwhenua, Hātea, and Te Puu Ao will represent Northland at Te Matatini - the biennial national kapa haka competition, lauded as the pinnacle event for Māori performing arts, being held at Wellington's Westpac Stadium next week from Thursday to Sunday.
Chris Henare, tutor of Far North roopu Muriwhenua - who placed first in the Te Tai Tokerau Kapa Haka regionals last year, said the roopu lived and breathed all aspects of kapa haka - but Te Matatini was a chance to showcase the Far North on a world stage.
"Kapa haka, waiata, haka, whaikōrero, karanga - all that stuff for us is everyday, not just for a 30 minute performance.
"But in saying that Te Matatini gives us the chance to get on a world stage to share our history and celebrate being from the Far North," he said.
The Northland groups are three of 46 from New Zealand and Australia competing at the event which is expected to attract more than 60,000 spectators.
Henare said preparing for Te Matatini involved admin work - including booking accommodation, travel, and fundraising - as well as the physical aspect - which included practising each item as well as focusing on health and fitness.
"Kapa haka it keeps evolving. It's sort of like different levels of rugby - you get provincial rugby, you get Super 12 rugby, and then you get the All Blacks at that test level. This is like test level rugby and to get to that stage you have to be physically fit.
"In comparison to rugby - 80 minutes on a rugby field is really tough. So 25 to 30 minutes on a kapa haka stage - it draws on physical, mental and spiritual energy. You have to be physically ready for it - you carry the mana of your people," he said.
Meanwhile Joby Hopa, tutor of Pehiāweri Marae-based group Hātea, said while the last 13 weeks had been intense - involving weekend-long training with 10 to 12 hours spent on the floor - Hātea never stopped training.
"This is our lifestyle more than just a sideline hobby," he said.
Hopa said being on stage at Te Matatini was "exhilarating".
"It's a chance to tell people who we are, tell them our stories, and really go and be the voice and face of our home people. We will go there and put our best foot forward. It's showing our children that through your culture it will take you to the world."
Whānau who can't make it to Wellington will still be able to watch the action as the entire event will be live broadcast on television and online with Māori Television.