A mother and daughter combination were among 22 students who graduated from New Zealand's oldest Maori performing arts school at a ceremony at the Playhouse Theatre in Hastings yesterday.
Hawke's Bay woman Hinematawaia Vercoe, 22, graduated from Te Wananga Whare Tapere o Takitimu Performing Arts School in Hastings, achieving a Diploma in Maori Performing Arts.
She now lives in Wellington where she's set up her own performing arts group called Manu Aute. The members of the group were in Hastings to see their leader graduate along side her mum, Hinemanuhiri Vercoe, who achieved a Taikura Kaumatua Certificate in Maori Performing Arts.
Hinematawaia began studying performing arts school when she was 15 and a student at Hukarere College in Napier.
Initially it was the prospect of international travel, through Kahurangi Maori Dance Company, which attracted her to a career in performing arts.
The company is also based at the performing arts school in Hastings. It's enabled her to travel and perform in the US and Canada, as well as around New Zealand with Kahurangi in recent years.
She's also been with the group when it performed the opening number for the National Waiata Maori Music Awards at the Hawke's Bay Opera House in Hastings, an honour it fulfilled every year.
"I think my favourite place to visit would have to be Santa Barbara because that's where we learned a lot about Hawaiian culture, from our host family over there.
"But a career in performing arts can give you lots more to help you later on in life. It can take you a long way. You actually learn more that just performing arts.
"You learn how to teach and ready music, plan music, work in administration, you learn different dance techniques and of course you learn te reo Maori."
It was those experiences which prompted her to think about forming her own performing arts group with her partner when she moved to Wellington at the end of last year.
"We wanted to give young people a chance to do something different, rather than just sitting at home and playing video games. We wanted to show them that you can have a career in performing arts, do something that you enjoy and get paid for it.
"I want them to experience what I have with Kahurangi."
Hinematawaia said while most of her time would be dedicated to Manu Aute this year, she hasn't ruled out returning to Hastings to work towards a Bachelor of Maori Performing Arts qualification.
Te Wananga Whare Tapere o Takitimu Performing Arts School was initiated by Hastings man Tama Huata and it celebrates its 30th birthday this year.