There was a special atmosphere at Te Papaīōuru Marae, Ōhinemutu, as people gathered together to open an inaugural festival and enjoy an original performance art piece.

The whakatau (welcoming ceremony) for the month-long Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival was held at the marae today.

The festival celebrates, inspires and shares through indigenous arts.

The welcoming ceremony included a pohiri, and Ko Rangi, ko Papa was performed by Te Arawa descendants Matiu Hamuera, Rosie Belvie and Kahumako Rāmeka and was inspired by Ranginui (Sky Father) and Papatūānuku (Mother Earth).

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The festival will showcase a diverse range of art forms including theatre, te reo Māori, music, writing, visual and traditional art as well as film.

It also supports Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori in the second week of September.

Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival director Cian Elyse White said it felt incredible to open the festival.

"The spirits are high, the people are positive, everyone is excited about the launch of this long-awaited new festival to Rotorua."

She said it was humbling to see people from all walks of life come together to celebrate the launch of this exciting initiative.

Elyse White said she had never seen the Ko Rangi, ko Papa performance before and was looking forward to seeing the artists stretch their wings and perform in their own backyard.

She encouraged everyone - locals and visitors - to show their support for events, buy tickets and to enjoy the festival.

Elyse White said they wanted to keep having this kaupapa but the only way to do that was for the community to support and champion it.

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She thanked all the sponsors and supporters of the festival.

Before the performance began, festival chairman and NZMACI general manager Eraia Kiel (Te Arawa) spoke and said it was his privilege to welcome those there to the inaugural festival.

He said there was a fantastic turnout to the opening and that a beautiful thing was how those there had come from all walks of life.

The pohiri for the Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival opening. Photo / Stephen Parker
The pohiri for the Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival opening. Photo / Stephen Parker

Kiel said the festival was not just for Māori and they wanted people to come and witness how beautiful the Māori culture was.

Throughout the month it was hoped that everyone in Rotorua and their friends and family from around the world could enjoy the festival, he said.

He said their future vision for the event was to make it an international festival.

Kerri Anne Hancock said what was amazing was with the festival Rotorua Reorua was being lifted from the pages and brought to life in a month-long festival.

The whāriki (foundations) of the ahurei (festival) have been woven together by the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI), Te Tatau o Te Arawa, Steambox Films and Rotorua Lakes Council with support from a number of Rotorua organisations.

Numerous events have been scheduled as part of the ahurei. The full programme can be viewed at www.aronuiartsfestival.com.