When Te Arawa's kapa haka groups lined the stage last weekend at the regional competition, they stood before a panel of expert judges. Head of news Kelly Makiha spoke to two of the judges, Ngamoni Huata and Huia Hahunga, about their roles.
Don't even try to suggest to Ngamoni Huata that her job as a judge at Te Arawa's regional kapa haka competition is a difficult one.
"It is not a hard job," she said.
"We know the deal. This is why we are picked."
The experienced performer and tutor has spent decades immersed in kapa haka and her knowledge of performing is immense.
Her duties at Te Arawa Kapa Haka Whakataetae a-Rohe involved judging poi and kakahu (costume).
"You can identify who they are from the bodice of the dress.
"We are lucky that each roopu that comes on stage, they give us a genealogy ... They are identified by the patterns on their bodice."
When judging their kakahu, she said it was like looking at a model coming onto the stage and judging their delivery from head to toe and whether it made sense to what they were doing.
Her method is to start at the 100 mark and work down.
"I don't start from 85 or whatever and go up. Everyone who comes on stage has a right to 100."
Her years of tutoring groups comes in hand.
"As a tutor this is what I expect. If you are tutoring, this is what I need, this is what I want, this is what I want to look at. The kawa, tikanga, kopu and the reo. That's the most important. You get to know what you are saying and you have to know how to deliver it."
You also had to be on your game as a judge, she said, and never get tired because it wasn't fair on the performers considering the hours of training they put into their performances.
"You can't afford to be tired. It impacts on the team and all their hard work".
Huia Hahunga said judging was an "absolute honour and responsibility".
"Being chosen to judge means that I have been recognised by the national kapa haka community as having reached a certain pinnacle of knowledge, expertise and practical experience in kapa haka haka. This may sound egotistical but it is not meant to be. Rather it acknowledges the fact that all judges are recognised experts in their specific field. The flip side is the notion that as experts, judges are also required to reciprocate or give back to Ngai Tatou and share our long years of knowledge and expertise - and judging is one way to do that."
She said judging allows her to stay connected and to act as kaitiaki of nga mahi o rehia. When judges choose one group as winners, they choose them as roles models for Ngai Tatou.
"As kaitiaki, we always are in the business of nurturing excellence in kapa haka and when we adjudge a winner, we task them with the responsibility of becoming kaitiaki too."
Mrs Hahunga said Maori were a performing culture and it's not just for entertainment.
"By performing we bring our tikanga to life and demonstrate them physically with te reo, hand and feet (physical) co-ordination, rhythm and music ... in a sense every time we perform we are engaging in a political act."
Encouraging the retention of regional distinctiveness for kapa haka groups was important to her.
"There is a tendency to copy the style of the winning group instead of staying true to ones own regional/hapu/iwi style of kapa haka.
"This is a contentious matter in kapa haka but I am of the view that groups should maintain their distinctiveness and avoid homogenisation."
She said being a judge allowed her to be a role model in how to contribute to things Maori with diligence, conviction and participation. Skills learnt in kapa haka could also be transferred to all areas of life.
Mrs Hahunga acknowledged the late Mauriora Kingi as her mentor in the judging arena. Mr Kingi died in June last year and although aged only 53, was the longest serving judge at Te Matatini, having served on the panel since 1988.
"Mauriora te tau o taku ate
kua ngaro koe
e lore te aroha
e maroke i te ra
makuku tohu i aku Roimatae."