Youth work student Kiwa Kahukura-Denton. Photo: Naomi Haussman

What do rangatahi need to thrive in Christchurch?

He Kākano Ahau is a podcast by writer and activist Kahu Kutia (Ngāi Tūhoe) that explores stories of Māori in the city. In episode two: rangatahi making connections in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

What defines the current generation of rangatahi Māori? Some might call us millennials, the first generation to be born fluent in digital technology.

Some might call us the kōhanga and kura kaupapa generation. Many of our parents and kaumātua were punished in school for speaking te reo Māori. But some of us were the first to taste our language again and to bring it back to life.

We were raised on stories of resistance: Bastion Point, the Springbok Tour, Te Matakite Māori Land March, Foreshore Seabed, the Tūhoe raids, the Dawn raids, Raglan, Pākaitore. We look to Māui-tikitiki-ā-Taranga for guidance, the trickster, the pōtiki. With the legacy of our tīpuna in front of us, we walk backwards into the digital era.

Many of us now live in the city, and are redefining what it means to be urban and Māori. Maybe we’re learning te reo through an app. Maybe we’re driving home once a month to spend time at our marae. Maybe we’re reviving the hidden history of the whenua beneath the concrete. Maybe we’re just looking for a place to be Māori.

For this episode of He Kākano Ahau I went down to Ōtautahi, Christchurch. In episode one, we learned about the first generation to transition from rural to urban Māori. In this episode, we’re looking at what it’s like to move to the city today.

From many perspectives, Christchurch seems a hard place to be Māori.

TVNZ’s That’s A Bit Racist documentary commissioned Harvard University to research racism in New Zealand. The results weren’t great for the whole country, but the South came out particularly badly with 89% of South Islanders saying they favoured Pākehā over Māori, compared to 63% in the North Island.

The South Island is where Kiwa Kahukura-Denton has lived for most of his life. Kiwa moved to Ōtautahi this year. Like many of us, Kiwa has moved to the city to study. He’s at Te Ora Hou studying to be a youth worker. Kiwa and I talk about loneliness, staying connected, and what he hopes to create for rangatahi Māori.

“A system where Māori is normal, Māori is standard, you know. It isn’t that one house for kapa haka, it isn’t te reo class, it isn’t the whānau class, it isn’t when someone flash comes to the school and you have a pōwhiri for them. It’s just normal and it’s okay that it’s normal. They don’t have to feel whakamā about being Māori or seeing things a Māori way or saying karakia when they need to say karakia.”

We both agreed that the environment of the city can be isolating, and decided to go on a tipi haere to talk to other rangatahi Māori living in Ōtautahi.


Made possible by the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund. Produced for RNZ by Ursula Grace Productions

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