“I was an artistic, creative Māori boy with big dreams. Inspired to draw and paint, I enjoyed recreating images of my Tipuna (ancestors). I knew that I wanted to travel and do something that reflected my culture in the arts. My whānau mentored and encouraged me to pursue Māori visual arts and encouraged Indigenous cultural exchange. They are activists, experienced protesters in law reform, Te Reo Māori advocates and international speakers. They are my role models who exposed me to drama, music and tribal songs, and showed me how to be a global visionary.
In 1992 I left New Zealand to go to Chicago. I was selected by the home people of Tokomaru Bay to be an Anthropology intern at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, working under the guidance of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum. I spent 16 months restoring ‘Ruatepupuke’, an 18th century meeting house. In fact, the museum now uses it as an actual meeting house. They have had a Tangi there, have educated people and held hui/meetings there. It’s a living Māori house with four million visitors a year, an icon for Māori culture and a focal point for homesick kiwis.
While I was there I had an epiphany that this is what I wanted to do with my life. Know who you are and know your culture and it will connect you with the world.”