Mau rākau helps American-born twins regain their Māoritanga

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Kiwa and Koa Mo’o are a pair of brothers who whakapapa to Ngāti Porou, but were brought up in the United States. They are currently students of Toi Hawaiki - a mau rākau branch of Te Whare Tū Taua o Aotearoa based in Hawaii - in which they have found peace in the learning of their Māori identity.

The Utah raised twins have been practicing mau rākau for two years, and are days away from grading to the second level of kaiako. 

“I’ve just been trying to learn Te Ao Māori and my biggest thing is Te Reo, Tikanga and whakapapa,” Koa Mo’o says.

Kiwa Mo’o explains, “I tried to learn some stuff on the internet and learning what I could but being over here and being around it a bit more is a huge blessing.”

Kiwa and Koa Mo'o. Source / file

Kim Makekau (Kanaka Maoli) started the branch in Laie, Hawai'i in 1985 - making it the oldest branch in Te Whare Tu Taua o Aotearoa. 

"I went back to New Zealand in 89 but it's been non-stop because other people I graded carried it on," Makekau says.

Located right next door to Brigham Young University, the branch has an abundance of cultures attend from Māori to Chinese.

"We have a huge international influence - the majority do come from the community but come from the university next door."

Kim Makekau is the Pou Whakarae of the Toi Hawaiki branch established in 1985

Makekau believes that the holistic approach to learning that mau rākau offers can benefit all the students that go through the school regardless of where they are from.

"The idea is to take everything they've learned from the mātauranga here, along with their degree and take it back with them to add to their kete and do something with what they've learned.

Koa Mo'o says he is looking forward to do exactly that after he graduates:

"My wife is from Gisborne, Muriwai so we will be moving back to New Zealand in the near future so hopefully I can continue learning over there."