Whatever Kahurangi Maxwell does, she tries to make her late mother proud.

So when she's among the team hosting the prestigious Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival on Maori Television next weekend, her mum, renowned cultural performer Atareta Maxwell, won't be far from her thoughts.

Miss Maxwell has kapa haka pumping through her veins, thanks to both her mother and father, Rotorua Lakes Council cultural ambassador Trevor Maxwell.

She has decided to take a step back from performing at competition level and is instead performing in front of the camera for thousands of viewers.


Mrs Maxwell, a long-time champion kapa haka performer and, with Mr Maxwell, leader and tutor of former national champions Ngati Rangiwewehi, died suddenly in 2007.

Miss Maxwell said she found performing after her mother's death difficult.

"It's so emotional when you perform and you try to draw strength from people near and dear to you. Kapa haka is from my mum and I know when I go out on stage she is there.

"All of the things I do I try to do from my mum's teachings and philosophies."

INSPIRATION: Kahurangi Maxwell (second from right) performs alongside her mother and mentor, the late Atareta Maxwell in 2004. PHOTO/FILE
INSPIRATION: Kahurangi Maxwell (second from right) performs alongside her mother and mentor, the late Atareta Maxwell in 2004. PHOTO/FILE

Miss Maxwell is teaming up with her fiancee Chey Milne (whom she will marry next month) and Matai Smith as hosts of Te Matatini for the Maori Television exclusive live broadcast.

It is the second time she has been given the role, after debuting on screen at the last national festival in 2015.

"It's the biggest Maori event in the world. We wait for this moment every two years to see the best of Maoridom. It's just such a positive celebration."

She will be live 11 to 12 hours a day during the competition and will interview tutors and leaders as they come off the stage after their groups' performances.

At the 2015 event, the interviews were in te reo but this year they will be a mix of te reo and English.

Although she would miss walking out on stage to compete, she said she was enjoying her new role.

She has performed at Te Matatini several times as a member of Ngati Rangiwewehi and Nga Uri o Te Whanoa and said it was an intense commitment.

"Also, if you're a tutor it's a thankless job and there's a lot of people management involved. I took time off to have a breather. Doing my masters was a great excuse but I did find I needed a break.

"Living with mum and dad, I knew the toll it took on them ... I don't miss the practices and the politics that goes with it but I do miss the performing."

Miss Maxwell said she owed a lot to kapa haka because it had taken her all around the world.

Her most memorable trip was performing at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, where the group she was with had the opportunity to go to Windsor Castle and "literally" have tea and scones with the Queen.

Another fond memory was performing in the United States, which included a trip to Disneyland.

"There is a saying 'have piupiu, will travel' and that is so true."

The next generation of Maxwells is already in the making with her 6-year-old daughter, Atareta named after her grandmother, already a rising star.

"She's already pushing me out of the line, she loves kapa haka."

She said Te Arawa was lucky to be naturals at kapa haka.

"We are so special and I say that proudly and try to say that humbly. Yes I have grown up in kapa haka and yes I have been part of the competition side but what is really unique about Te Arawa is we will go from practice straight to our jobs at concert. I got my first job when I was 11 or 12 doing concert. It might sound cliche but we live and breathe it.

"A lot of teams in other areas have to outsource to get things like their uniforms. But we don't have to do that, we just go to aunty and get our piupiu and poi made. That's what I love about it, it's home, it's our bread and butter. It provides for us - it feeds our passion and feeds our whanau."

Miss Maxwell, who works at Te Wananga o Aotearoa as a senior marketing specialist, has appeared on Maori Television a few times in the past, including hosting Whanau Bake Off and hosting a segment on Nga Tangata Taumata Rau.

"My job is my priority but I squeeze it in where I can. Anything to do with te reo and kapa haka and I will try to make it work."

Next weekend she is looking forward to seeing some of the new kapa haka groups as champions.

"I hope to see some of the dark horses in the top groups. Those first timers deserve those places and it's an indication that kapa haka is growing and there is new life coming through."

Kapa haka styles have changed a lot in the past decade with more modern styles coming through, but Miss Maxwell admits her heart is with traditional performances.

"But I do appreciate the modern style. If people get it right it can be dynamic."

And when you ask Miss Maxwell who is her favourite performer, she said she couldn't go past her mum.

"I know this is whakahihi (bragging) for me to say this but she performed with class and grace. She tried to be professional all the time and always tried to perform like a lady."

Kahurangi Maxwell:
- Descended from Ngati Rangiwewehi and Ngati Whakaue
- Daughter of kapa haka legends Trevor Maxwell and the late Atareta Maxwell
- Former member of senior groups Ngati Rangiwewehi and Nga Uri o Te Whanoa
- Winner of 2014 Te Arawa Regional Kapa Haka Festival kaitataki wahine (best female leader).
- Former tutor and member of national champion secondary school kapa haka group at Western Heights High School