Thanks to the All Blacks the haka has become synonymous with New Zealand and tourists from around the world travel to Rotorua to witness Māori cultural performances first hand.

Backstage at Mitai Māori Cultural Village a tight knit group of performers prepare for their nightly show, listening to hip hop and joking about the day.

They change out of their jeans and hoodies into their traditional attire and help each other to paint tā moko on their faces - the wall surrounding the mirror covered in green splodges of leftover paint.

A performer prepares backstage ahead of a performance at Mitai Māori Village. Photo/Jaden McLeod
A performer prepares backstage ahead of a performance at Mitai Māori Village. Photo/Jaden McLeod

For them performing on stage for visitors is an opportunity to express their culture, but they also laugh at the fact the most important part is it makes them a living.

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Waimihi Rota-Matchitt is a waiata and poi performer at the village.

"Mitai is a Māori cultural village, we perform to tourists and we showcase our culture through song and dance, through food as well and our native plants.

"It's a bit of everything about our culture."

Rota-Matchitt said with the dying out of Māori culture and te reo hanging over their heads Māori cultural performance was a way of "revitalising everything" and keeping it alive within themselves.

"For us being able to do what we know, and love, as a job, it's actually beneficial for our culture.

"Our songs, the history that we talk about, the land that we're performing on, the food that we eat, how it's cooked, it's all a way of keeping it alive.

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"I think we're pretty lucky here."

Every day of the year, except Christmas, visitors can come to Mitai for an "authentic, traditional Māori experience".

Rota-Matchitt said the visitors come from all over the world.

"When they come to a place like this, they learn a couple of things that really inspire them.

"I think our culture's special, it is similar to other Polynesian cultures, but I think we're different in our own way, in our own stories."

She said every night and every crowd was different.

"Some crowds are really enthusiastic and they click on to all our jokes and stuff like that.

"I've seen some people who really get into the emotion of the song, or like clap, you know try and sing along at the same time.

"Some people I see looking at us like what are you doing, what is this."

Tamaki Cultural performers Mihipeka McKenzie-Mason (left), Heke Tarei, Jaydyn Turei-Bidois and Temamaeroa Mihaere. Photo/Supplied
Tamaki Cultural performers Mihipeka McKenzie-Mason (left), Heke Tarei, Jaydyn Turei-Bidois and Temamaeroa Mihaere. Photo/Supplied

In 1990 the Tamaki brothers, Mike and Doug, established Tamaki Tours, funding it by selling a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Tamaki Tours reinvented the familiar concert and hāngī by taking visitors to a replica Māori village south of Rotorua.

It is now known as Tamaki Māori Village and sales manager Sarah Christie said it was a positive space for Māori culture and people to educate the world of its uniqueness and values in its natural environment.

"Our performance differs to others because we ensure our guests experience and feel the true essence of manaakitanga."

This year Tamaki Māori Village was voted 7th in a TripAdvisor travellers choice list of the world's top experiences.

"Māori benefit from sharing their culture to visitors because it exposes and educates our identity in an international context, with the hope to inspire other indigenous cultures to tell their stories as well.

"With Māori people continuously being broadcasted negatively on our national airwaves, to the rest of the world we are acknowledged as a rich, strong and thriving people."