Te Kai a te Rangatira represents the collective efforts of more than forty rangatahi volunteers that have devoted time to capture the insights, experiences and knowledge of Māori who have committed their lives to advance others. Our collective vision is that this kaupapa will help inform how this generation and beyond think about Māori 'leadership' and draw inspiration from this work to inform how rangatahi might make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of our people and wider society.
The origins of this kaupapa date back to 2017, when a group who had connected through the Tuia rangatahi leadership kaupapa came across the work of Te Rangikaheke and Himiona Tikitu, who wrote about the attributes of effective Māori leaders in their respective works: ‘Te Tikanga o Tēnei Mea te Rangatiratanga o te Tangata Māori’ (1850) and ‘Nga Pumanawa e Waru’ (1897). These included being able to cultivate kai, provide shelter for those under your care, and resolve conflict.
As we searched for ways to apply these attributes to our work with rangatahi, someone posed the question, ‘What would Dame Tariana Turia say about Māori leadership in today’s context?’ Someone else added, ‘Āe! Actually, Tā Tīmoti Kāretu would have some interesting insights, too.’ Ka taka te kapa: the penny dropped – ‘Why don’t we interview one hundred Māori who have a track record of contributing to the lives of others?’
A group of rangatahi who gathered from around the country were inspired at the thought of listening to kaikōrero from a range of backgrounds – marae, iwi, art, education, youth work, social work, politics, business, governance and more. Between December 2017 and February 2020, more than thirty volunteers engaged with over one hundred people across the motu. It was important to involve rangatahi at every step of the process from organising, interviewing, photography, videography and more.
Kaikōrero were generous not only with their time and knowledge, but also with the warmth of their hearts and whare. We were given beds to sleep in, kai to eat, and much more. As we undertook this work we realised the process itself was having a transformative impact on our lives. It has been an incredible and rewarding experience – one that leaves us forever grateful to those who have done their mahi so that our mokopuna live the kind of lives our tūpuna dreamed of.
This kaupapa would not have been possible without the tautoko of the volunteers, funders, book publishers and whānau who helped make it happen – for your helping hands and whakaaro, we are thankful.