Kapa haka has brought Atutahi Potaka-Dewes out of her shell, allowed her the opportunity to share her culture with hundreds of audience members and now taken her on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to India.

Potaka-Dewes has been performing on the kapa haka stage for the last eight years and works as a tour guide and cultural performer at Whakarewarewa Village.

"I love the fact it gives me confidence.

"I always dreaded talking in front of a crowd, but for some reason I find singing and dancing so much easier. It's a way to share my culture."


Earlier this year performers from Te Pakira went on a three-week trip to India to showcase Maori culture on the global stage.

It was the first overseas trip Potaka-Dewes had taken with the group.

"It kind of humbles you to see how easy we've got it, even things as simple as having clean water."

She said her first impression of India was one of a "crazy busyness".

"You're so worried things are going to go missing or get stolen, because there are so many people everywhere, and they don't really have any of our road safety rules."

The first stop was SATTE, India's flagship travel and tourism expo.

"The crowds really enjoyed it, it was something so different," Potaka-Dewes said.

"Considering we were half naked, that was a major shock, but we were really well received."

They were the only indigenous, Polynesian performers at the expo.

The Whakarewarewa performance group,Te Pakira, in India. Photo / Supplied
The Whakarewarewa performance group,Te Pakira, in India. Photo / Supplied

"We were like celebrities, honestly.

"It could take half an hour just to walk 10 to 15m because everyone just wanted to have photos with us.

"A lot of them had never met anybody Maori or even knew where New Zealand is."

Between performances Potaka-Dewes said the group got in a lot of shopping and sight-seeing.

Her suitcase on the way home was full of scarves and gifts.

"We spent a lot of time eating.

"I'm not a big curry fan, so I was worried, and the food was spicy, everything was so spicy, even McDonalds was spicy.

"We ordered a burger and it looked like a Big Mac, it was not a Big Mac.

"You ask for their version of a little bit spicy, but what they mean by that is a lot."

Two weeks in all she wanted was steak, eggs and mushrooms, she said.

"A memory that stands out most definitely was the Taj Mahal.

"When the fire was first lit in me, for a desire to travel, it was looking through my granddad's photo album.

"I would have been about 9, but one particular photo of him standing in front of the Taj Mahal always stood out."

In the mornings before everyone else was up Potaka-Dewes made time for a run through the streets.

"I would just go around the block, down the side streets and alleyways.

"I would see families bathing their kids in the street, cooking breakfast.

"It was so nice, seeing those little moments, people just going about their day before the roads became busy again."

She said another highlight was performing at the Surajkund festival, the world's largest arts, crafts and cultural festival, attended by more than one million visitors over a 12-day period.

"It was seeing people's faces, their reactions to our culture and just the big cheers were so cool.

"It made me appreciate my culture even more and it felt like we were bridging the gap between two separate parts of the world."

Potaka-Dewes said she would definitely go back.

"I felt so at peace, even though there was always the hustle and bustle of the city."