3-year-old "rangatira" goes viral with karakia

By D'Angelo Martin, Leo Horgan

A video of 3-year-old Te Urunga o te Rā Ahipene performing a karakia-takutaku at a wānanga in Brisbane has gone viral online thanks to the young boy's seeming mastery of his culture.

The video, uploaded on Wednesday, has already been shared more than 2,200 times and has now been seen by more than 130,000 people.

Te Urunga o te Rā performs karakia-takutaku (Source: Facebook)

Proud parents Gaylene and Dre Ahipene (of Ngāti Porou and Te Arawa descent respectively) were amazed at the public response to the short clip.

Gaylene says, "It kind of blows me away sometimes- this is him on the daily.  Sometimes it really takes my breath away because it’s just Urunga.  When he stands to do- whether it’s whaikōrero, karakia or waiata- it’s just next level for me."

Te Urunga's passion for tikanga Māori has been sparked by his parents' wish to retain their culture in Australia.

"It’s one of those situations, if we don’t have it we must create it and our whakaaro Māori encourages us to do so," says Dre.

The Ahipene whānau (Source: Gaylene Ahipene)

"We are currently the tutors of Tūranga Ake.  We’ve been able to take our rōpu back to Te Matatini, so that’s been a massive opportunity [and] environment for our kids to grow up in...it's definitely something that we’ve worked hard at."

The whānau say a number of online comments have questioned the boy's age after witnessing his skill with the rākau. 

"I have seen some of the comments," says Gaylene, "People are like 'I'm sure he's not three', 'he can't be three, he must be five'.  He's only three!  I feel like putting videos of him not listening up so people realise he is only three!"  

Te Urunga o te Rā and his sister (Source: Gaylene Ahipene)

Being so far from Aotearoa, the struggle to maintain tikanga Māori has been real for the whānau.  However, the reaction to Te Urunga's video has confirmed they are on the right path.  

"I am definitely proud and quite emotional but outside of that I keep everything intact because the odds that we’re up against over here," says Dre, "Bringing a young whānau over as well…it’s one of those things that’s quite phenomenal. 

"Until you’re actually a papa yourself and you actually see your kid...becoming the mirror image of that mahi that you’re doing, only then do you actually completely understand."