Teen a leader in both Māori and Samoan groups at Polyfest

By Aroha Awarau

Rain Te’I is Māori-Samoan and is the first student at Auckland’s Mangere College to become the leader in kapa haka and the Samoan dance group during Polyfest.

“It’s a rare thing and I think it’s an amazing opportunity,” says the 18-year-old.

“I’ve had more experience with kapa haka but the Siva Samoa makes me feel beautiful. I’m not attuned with my Samoan language but that’s the beautiful thing about Siva Samoa. It’s an art that transcends language. I can express myself through my song, my dance and actions.”

Rain has grown up in Aotearoa and America. She started at Mangere College a year ago and was appointed head girl earlier this year.

“I’ve been to many schools all over the world, this Is my 13th.  Mangere College is my favourite. I’ve been to a lot of places where they assume what I am,” says Rain whose iwi are Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi.

Honour of a lifetime

“When I walk through the gates of Mangere College, they know what I am. There’s a sense of belonging that I‘ve never had. That’s why I wanted to apply to be head girl and getting it was an honour of a lifetime.”

Rain and her two brothers made national headlines at the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, when their mother, Louisa Tipene Opetaia, travelled to the US to bring her children home.

She wanted them to be safe from the growing infection rates in the US and the violence surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests.

“It was an unsafe place to be. That’s why my mum came and got me and brought me to the safest place on earth.”

When Rain arrived in Aotearoa, the situation didn’t get any better for her and her whānau. They became homeless during the first lockdown.

“It was hard to see a way out. You’re in this new country, you don’t have a home, you don’t go to school, and you don’t know what to do with your life.

It was a dark time. What got me through was my family. They helped me out to see the light. Look at me now, I obviously found my way out. It’s obviously good!”