Feeling the mauri on one of the Seven Wonders of the World, 13 year-old Tawhiao Kaitapu rallied his peers into formation before proudly leading the haka ‘Ka Mate.'
Published: Rātū, 04 Hōngongoi, 2017 | Tuesday, 4 July 2017
Tawhiao was one of 23 intermediate school students who travelled to China for two-weeks last year for the Confucius Cultural Exchange Programme.
A student at Northcote Intermediate in Auckland at the time, he said the Great Wall of China was amazing.
“I ran up to it when I saw it. It was a good place to do a haka,” he said.
The exchange programme seeks to promote the Mandarin language and intercultural relations between Aotearoa New Zealand and China.
Being the only Māori on the trip, Tawhiao took on the role of Māori Cultural Ambassador role for the school.
He said he was invited to share some of his knowledge of his own language and culture.
“I led karakia for us during the trip and taught some of our hosts Māori words and songs.
“It was cool because one of my home-stay younger brothers started to say ‘kia ora’ when I stayed with them.”
As part of the trip, students sat a level one Mandarin language exam at Fudan University in Shanghai, where most of them passed.
However, he said the biggest lesson he learnt from the trip was about attitude.
“The kids try really hard at school for their families and they respect their teachers. Their attitude is different to how kids are in New Zealand.
“I learnt that it is good to listen and have gratitude for what you’ve got.”
His mum, Jacque Puriri-Kaitapu said leadership is something that Tawhiao takes in his stride.
“He’s a bit of a magnet,” she said.
“People just kind of gravitate to him and we really saw him grow in leadership skills during that trip.”
She said moving him from kura kaupapa to a mainstream school had its challenges and it was great that he could contribute what he knew to the group in China.
Tawhiao worked hard with his school to fundraise for the exchange and he also received support from a Rangatiratanga Grant from Te Puni Kōkiri.
While in China, the young man presented a carved taiaha named Puriri to the principal of Ningbo Jiangong Foreign
Language Experimental School.
“We wanted Tawhiao to take something that represented his whānau,” Ms Puriri-Kaitapu said.
“The taonga was to connect us as a whānau to his hosts and also to symbolise the importance of mātauranga whilst strengthening the connection between the schools.”
Currently a year nine student at West Lake Boys High School on the North Shore in Auckland, the avid basketball player has his sights set on returning to China.
“I definitely want to go back. I would like to go to university over there and maybe play basketball too.”
Check out Tawhiao and his classmates performing the haka ‘Ka mate’ on the Great Wall of China at Kiwi kids do haka on great wall of China.