Three Rotorua kapa haka performers are back after a three-month tour of central Europe.

The Whakaari Rotorua cultural group visited most of the Czech Republic and saw everything from the big cities to the small villages.

Frank Grapl, his mother Tuhi Grapl and third member Erueti Haimona went through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and Austria where they said they reached about 100,000 people through their live performances.

A Rotorua kapa haka group is taking Maori culture to the Czech Republic. Photo / Supplied by Bara Strakova, Vladimir Kriz & Forum 2000​
A Rotorua kapa haka group is taking Maori culture to the Czech Republic. Photo / Supplied by Bara Strakova, Vladimir Kriz & Forum 2000​

"Many people don't know who Māori are or what Māori look like because we all are different colours these days," said Frank Grapl.

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"The best part was exposing our culture which meant they could learn more then just the haka from the All Blacks."

Grapl believed the exposure of Māori culture on a international scale continued to keep New Zealand on the map and in the hearts and minds of the people of central Europe.

"It helps to build up a lot of tolerance, understanding and acceptance for different values and different protocols."

He said although there were a lot of differences there were many similarities between them as well.

Grapl spoke Czech and said the alphabet was similar to the Māori alphabet which made it easy for Czechs to pronounce Māori names which he said Kiwis had trouble pronouncing.

Being part Czech, he said it was wonderful to connect the two sides of his identity.

Along with a multitude of anniversaries that connect the two countries, it was also the 10-year anniversary of their Whakaari Māori culture group.

"It was really important for us to go over and tautoko, support, those anniversaries especially being Czech."

Frank Grapl with the second president of the Czech Republic, from 2003 to 2013, Vaclav Klaus. Photo / Supplied by Bara Strakova, Vladimir Kriz & Forum 2000​
Frank Grapl with the second president of the Czech Republic, from 2003 to 2013, Vaclav Klaus. Photo / Supplied by Bara Strakova, Vladimir Kriz & Forum 2000​

The Grapls were able to meet former president of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus and former president Václav Havel's wife, Dagmar Havlová.

But Grapl's ultimate highlight was being able to meet Peter Freestone, the personal assistant of Freddie Mercury.

Frank Grapl (left) with the assistant to Freddie Mercury, Peter Freestone (right). Photo / Supplied by Bara Strakova, Vladimir Kriz & Forum 2000​
Frank Grapl (left) with the assistant to Freddie Mercury, Peter Freestone (right). Photo / Supplied by Bara Strakova, Vladimir Kriz & Forum 2000​

He said Freestone was fascinated with the culture and the meanings behind their songs.

"It was a great honour to meet someone who was connected to one of the biggest names in show business history.

"Freddie was an icon for me because he knows how to connect with the people, whether it be a big audience or a little audience, he's a real showman."

For Tuhi Grapl it was reconnecting with a family that they had known for 30 years and meeting family they never knew they had.

Frank Grapl had signed a guest book for a museum which one of their Czech whānau members found who then traced Frank and Tuhi through the Whakaari group website.

"Sure enough we're whānau.

"Everything we believe in and what we love about life is the same." Frank said.

The group paid for the trip themselves. They had asked the Government and other businesses around Rotorua and Aotearoa to help them financially but none could support them.

Frank Grapl said it was not a coincidence that there were only three members in the group as opposed to 10 or more that they have had on previous occasions.

"A lot of it has been on our backs. Fundraising like crazy. I can't tell you how many sausage sizzles, hangis and lotto drops we have done.

"There is a huge history with Czech influence and it would be nice for the New Zealand Government to formally recognise, not just on a piece of paper, but financially help us for what we are doing."

As a result of their tour they were able to inspire a Czech film crew which is creating about 10 episodes to showcase the connections between New Zealand and the Czech Republic.

"When that goes to air in the beginning of the year that will go out to more than 5 million people in a country of 10 million and then many more through sharing on the internet."

Grapl said drawing a part of the world to Aotearoa which traditionally did not have exposure was an important part of the tourism industry.