Rotorua-based Te Puia New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute says it played a key role in the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism closing ceremony in Guangzhou.

The Institute's kapa haka performed in collaboration with Modern Māori Quartet, while the institute also crafted the official gift from New Zealand to China, according to a written statement from the Institute.

The specially selected kapa haka group were part of a larger group in China with Tuku Iho Living Legacy exhibition developed by the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute.

Meanwhile, a 1.5m taiaha carved by pouako whakairo rākau (wood carving tutor) Tommy Herbert was selected as the official gift to China. During Sunday's closing ceremony Minister Kelvin Davis presented the taiaha to China's Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang, who visited Te Puia earlier this year.

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According to Māori tikanga, the taiaha is the most prized weapon and is only given to those held in the highest regard.

Carved from rātā, a native wood, the designs within the taiaha reflect the strong connection between the Aotearoa and China with the waha, or mouth, symbolising the importance of conversations and dialogue, and the significant impact of cultural diplomacy.

New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute general manager, Eraia Kiel, said it is a proud moment to see the Institute play such an important role – both performing and creating taonga.

"At [the Institute] we've got a responsibility to protect, promote and perpetuate the arts, crafts and culture of iwi as mandated by the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Act.

"Just like Tuku Iho – the exhibition we are currently showcasing in Shanghai – this is another way we are fulfilling this commitment."

Kiel said it was "a huge buzz" for the kapa to perform alongside Modern Māori Quartet.

He said the two groups only had one rehearsal in Shanghai to get the performance right, but "everyone clicked straight away".

"The Modern Māori Quartet have an awesome wairua about them and we learnt a lot in the short time we were together."

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The carver, Tommy Herbert, is no stranger to having his whakairo (carving) take him around the world – but the honour and pride that comes with it is still there each time.

"It is great to continue the traditional arts of my tūpuna (ancestors) and pass on skills to future generations."

Herbert travelled to China as part of the first Tuku Iho in 2013 and described returning as a privilege.

"It is such a good experience getting to share our culture overseas and meet new people from different cultures."