London-based kapa haka Ngāti Rānana provided a distinct Māori cultural element to the Commonwealth Day celebrations held in the UK. The British royal family were treated to a pōwhiri by the haka group at Westminster Abbey in London on Monday night (local time). 

Kaihaka Otene Hopa recounted that providing the pōwhiri was a special occasion to showcase the Māori language and culture to the British royals on their home turf. 

"I hīkaka te ngākau i runga i te mōhio i rangona te reo Māori, i rangona hoki i te ahurea Māori ki mua i te aroaro o te kāhui ariki. Nā mātou te honore i kawea mai te ahurea Māori, i kawea mai hoki i te reo Māori hei kitenga, hei rangona mō te ao." 

Commonwealth Day is an annual celebration commemorating the alliance between the 53 nations of the Commonwealth. The pōwhiri was the first time where Māori were centre stage in front of an international audience in Westminster Abbey. 

Mr Hopa says the pōwhiri was a moving experience for all. 

"I rongo i te wairua a ō mātou tūpuna, i rongo hoki i te wairua o ngā tūpuna o ngā kīngi ngā kuini me kī o te kāhui ariki. I rangona te ngākau te wairua aua āhuaanga katoa he mea mīharo." 

A song composed by Wiremu Kerekere was chosen to mark the occasion, due to the prayer contained in the lyrics of the waiata. Mr Hopa added the song reflects the Queen's wish for unity. 

"I mōhio mātou nā te Kuini hoki te reo karanga ki ngā iwi katoa o te Commonwealth kia hui tahi ai i runga i te whakaaro kotahi. I whiriwhirihia ko tērā o ngā waiata hei whakanuia i a ia me tana reo karanga ki ngā iwi katoa o te ao."

Ngāti Rānana's performance was given the royal approval. 

"I whakamīharo atu rātou ki tā mātou mahi. He mea e arohanuitia ana, e tino mōhio ana tērā o ngā whānau, tērā o ngā kāhui ariki ki ērā momo āhuatanga, nō reira i rangona, i rongo, i mau rātou i te wairua Māori." 

Mr Hopa also got the opportunity to speak to Prince Harry's fiancee Meghan Markle who was in attendance at her first royal appearance. 

"I kōrero tahi māua ko Meghan me tana taetanga mai ki waenga i te marea. I kōrero tahi māua mō tana mārena. E tatari ana ia, e hīkaka ana ia mō tērā rā kia noho piritahi ki tana hoa ki a Harry." 

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are set to wed on May 19th.

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