Poi dance popularity inspired Rotorua whanau to use Facebook for a one-stop Māori shop for everyone.

A Rotorua family realised it was on to something when a poi dance set to Beyonce's music went viral.

The extended Winitana whanau has been schooling two generations of its children in te reo Māori for 30 years and established a school in Māori performing arts for girls, Tareikura, in Rotorua last year. It was inspired by Atamira Winitana, now 90, the great-grandmother of most of the girls.

"Atamira has a special poi. She was raised by her people in the Central Plateau and was taught how to use the poi," says Tupoutahi Winitana, 27, her grandson.

"When the girls at Tareikura used our grandmother's poi to one of Beyonce's songs on the Tareikura Facebook page, it went viral. It went into the millions.

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"We saw how Facebook worked and how everybody was interacting, and most of the people actually were in London and Australia. A lot of them were interested in learning how to speak Māori."

The whanau had the skills to respond. They have been schooled not just in the language but in the culture and beliefs of their Māori heritage.

The Ahorangi poi dance to Beyonce's music went viral. Photo / Tinamaree Kaipara
The Ahorangi poi dance to Beyonce's music went viral. Photo / Tinamaree Kaipara

"We are all musicians, we are all actors. Music and performing arts was our main diet growing up," says Mr Winitana, who was just 3 when his father Chris Winitana wrote Ahorangi Genesis, a stage show telling the Māori story of the origins of life, which the whole family toured around the country in 1992-93.

A follow-up show followed at the turn of the century, Ahorangi 2000. And now "Ahorangi Presents the Next Generation" has been launched - not for the stage, but as a Facebook page.

"It's introducing people to our cultural identity," Mr Winitana says. "If you want to learn about Māori, come to this page. We want to create a one-stop Māorishop for everybody globally. You just come to this place and we will connect you to the right people in the right places to get you what you want."

The family is using the new medium to recreate the world of Māori gods in Te Ao o Nga Atua, a web series funded with a $101,000 grant from the Māori broadcasting funding agency Te Mangai Paho.

Like a Hollywood movie franchise, the whanau wants to translate the series into English and create learning resources and games around it.

"Te Ao o Nga Atua ran for 20 weeks, introduced more than 1000 new Māori words and 35 Māori gods," Mr Winitana says.

"This information is the curriculum that me and my brothers and sisters grew up on to help us not just learn the language, but to believe. I think everything we learnt in this journey was about how we created belief in our kids to believe in Māoritanga, to believe in who they are.

"Like going into the forest and sitting under a tree and explaining how that tree gives the world oxygen - in our genealogy that tree is our elder brother."

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Whakamaoritia

Mōhio tonu atu tētahi whānau o Rotorua he pai kē tana mahi i te rongonui toro rere o tā rātou kanikani poi ki te waiata a Beyonce.

E rua rawa ngā reanga o te whānau Winitana i kuraina i roto i te reo Māori mō te 30 tau nei ka whakatūria hoki tōna kura Kapa Haka kōtiro, ko Tāreikura, ki Rotorua i tērā tau. He mea mahi nā te aroha ki tō rātou kuia Atamira Winitana, e 90 ōna tau ināianei, ko ia te tupuna kuia o te nuinga o ngā kōtiro nā.

"He mahi poi motuhake tā Atamira. Nā tana rahinga o Te Arawa ia i whakatupu i whakaako hoki ki te mahi poi," tā tana mokopuna tā Tūpoutahi Winitana, e 27 ōna tau.

"Nō te whakaaturanga ki te Pukamata a Tāreikura i ngā kōtiro e mahi poi ana i tā tō mātou kuia ki te waiata a Beyonce, kātahi nā ka hōrapa te rongo. Eke rawa ki ngā miriona. Ka kite ake mātou i te whai hua o Pukamata ki te whakahuihui tāngata ka mutu kei Rānana me Ahitereiria kē te nuinga o ēnā. Tokomaha tonu rātou e kaingākau ana ki te ako ki te kōrero Māori."

Nō te whānau nei hoki ngā pūkenga hāngai. Kua whakangungua hoki rātou kaua ki te reo anake engari anō ki ngā tikanga me ngā whakapono Māori.

"He kaiwaiata mātou katoa, he kaiwhakaari anō hoki. Ko te waiata me te haka tā mātou kai whakatupu," tā Tūpoutahi, e 3 noa iho ōna tau i te wā i tuhia ai e tana pāpā e Chris Winitana ko Ahorangi Genesis, he whakaari atamira mō te ōrokohanga mai o te ao Māori i whakaatu haerehia e te whānau huri noa i te motu i te tau 1992-93.

Ka whai muri atu i tēnā ko te whakaari Ahorangi 2000 i te huringa o te mano tau hou. Ka mutu ināianei kua whakarewahia ko "Ahorangi Presents the Next Generation" - kaua kē mō te atamira, engari anō ia mō Pukamata kē.

"Hei whakaaturanga tēnei i ā tātou tikanga ahurea," tā Tūpoutahi. "Hei ako i ngā mea o te ao Māori, haere mai ki tēnei whārangi. Ko te hiahia hei pokapū Māori tēnei mō te ao katoa. Ka peka noa mai koe ki tēnei wāhi, ā, mā mātou koe e tūhono atu ki ngā tāngata tika ki ngā wāhi tika hoki e tutuki ai tō hiahia."

Kei te whakamahi te whānau i te ara hou o te hangarau nei hei whakaatu mai anō i te ao o ngā atua Māori arā ko Te Ao o Ngā Atua, he hōtaka ipurangi nā te pūtea tautoko $101,000 a Te Māngai Pāho. Kia pēnei anō me ngā hanga pikitia rongonui o Hollywood, kei te pīrangi te whānau ki te whakapākehā i ngā kōrero o te hōtaka nei ka hanga mai ai i ōna rauemi akoako reo me ōna kēmu anō hoki.

"Ka 20 wiki te roa o Te Ao o Ngā Atua, neke atu i te 1000 ōna kupu Māori hou, ka mutu e 35 rawa ōna atua Māori," tā Tūpoutahi.

Koinei rā ngā kōrero i whāngaihia mai i tupu ake ai mātou ko aku tuākana ko aku tuāhine, hei āwhina i a mātou kia ū kaua ki te reo anake engari anō ki te whakapono. Ki ahau ko ngā mahi katoa i ako ai mātou i tēnei haerenga ko te whakaū i te whakapono o ā mātou tamariki ki tēnei mea te Māoritanga, otirā ki a rātou tonu anō. He pēnei anō me te haere ngahere ka noho ki raro i te rākau ki te wānanga nō hea mai tōna tiriao hauora - ki roto anō i ō mātou whakapapa hei tuakana tonu tēnā rākau ki a mātou."

• Te Reo Māori translation service supported by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori.