In the second episode of season two of Kiwibank’s This is Kiwi podcast, Te Aorere Pēwhairangi talks about finding inspiration to live by his passion.
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Social media stardom isn’t something Te Aorere Pēwhairangi intended when he began creating content. His hugely successful videos sharing te reo and te ao Māori with the world have grown his following across Instagram and TikTok to over 200,000.
From running a hugely successful Te Matatini social media campaign, to commentating the Rugby World Cup in Te Reo Māori and creating television shows and miniseries online, Pēwhairangi’s rise to social media stardom has been rapid.
When Te Tairāwhiti was hit badly in the 2023 cyclone, Pēwhairangi decided to take action to help the broken community. By walking over 200km from Gisborne to Hicks Bay and sharing the journey with his social media following, Pēwhairangi raised awareness of the damaged state of the whenua and communities in Tairāwhiti. The campaign, Waewae the 35, raised over $116,000 for these communities and helped Pēwhairangi to become a medallist for the Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year 2023.
“It was challenging physically, but the biggest thing was mental, and fatigue, because I not only had to do the hīkoi and the run, but we also had to put out content every day… It was a tough week, but it’s honestly probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Turning his passion for storytelling into a sustainable career has been something that Pēwhairangi has been working on for years. He remembers a conversation with his koroua, Te Aorere Riddell, about what you need to retire: “He said: you need good health, you need meaningful relationships, you need purpose, and you need security.
“I wrote it down. And I tried to dissect what ‘security’ meant. And one thing that I thought of was financial security. I didn’t want to get to retirement, and then start to think about money,” says Pēwhairangi.
“When I first started out [as a subtitler] at Whakaata Māori I was invited to a cafe by Te Arahi Maipi, who runs a successful business, Mahi Tahi Media, just to have a coffee and a conversation. He told me to start a business. I was 19 years old [and didn’t] see why I needed a business or what future prospects I had in business… I’ve had my business for almost 10 years now.
“Every year I’ve learned more and more about my business and it’s grown and evolved and now I have made my passion my life.”
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One of these passions Pēwhairangi is sharing with his followers is te reo and tikanga Māori. On his social media, he has celebrated Māori competitions like Te Matatini, given his audiences a closer look at Matariki celebrations, and through his series Mahi Kai, has explored mātauranga surrounding kai with celebrated Māori Astronomer, and former Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year winner Dr Rangi Mātāmua.
Mātāmua is one of many mentors Pēwhairangi has had over the years who shares a passion for sharing te ao Māori with the world. Pēwhairangi says while the feedback to his content is not always positive, the support for his mahi is his reason for continuing.
“Te mūrau a te tini. Te wenerau a te mono. It doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll get praised and you’ll get criticised. So if you have a dream and if you want to do something, go out and do it and don’t let anyone stop you from doing it.”