A newly-appointed cultural activator in Wairoa is hoping to encourage rangatahi to embrace the arts, local history, and their culture.
Wairoa Taiwhenua were one of six successful applicants for the cultural activator pilot, which is a one-year initiative founded by Mangatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage.
Alex-Ann Edwards, Ngāti Kahungunu and Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, was born and bred in Wairoa, and despite being away for about 15 years, she always knew she would eventually return home.
"In my work as a te reo Māori teacher and as a research analyst I've always been keen to learn whatever I can with the goal of bringing my knowledge back to my people," she said.
The role of a cultural activator is to help the Wairoa community tell their stories, develop creative skills, and access opportunities in the cultural sector.
"I see myself as an arm that helps already established art practitioners or groups in whatever capacity is required," Edwards said.
"My job states support, first and foremost."
Edwards has already immersed herself in the role of cultural activator, which officially began on Monday.
On Tuesday at 12pm, she launched a Facebook page called Live It Up, Wairoa, to synchronise the initiation of their kaupapa with the national Māori Language Moment.
"We called it Live It Up, Wairoa to encourage our community to live it up in the moment. For te wiki o te reo Māori we've been challenging the community with a te reo Māori activity.
"Yesterday, five whānau uploaded their own videos for the challenge. That's big for Wairoa - we're not the ones to normally put ourselves out there," Edwards said.
Edwards is already brimming with ideas for Wairoa, which will build on established events like the biannual pā haka, Māori film festival and Matariki.
"I'd like to see a poetry slam competition, I know we have poets in the community and we could have a panel of judges and give it a theme, that would be something cool to have in our town," she said.
"We've got local legends around too: the histories and stories of Rongomaiwahine and Kahungunu. I would be keen to see our local theatre group bring these local legends to life in today's world."
Edwards is aware that it will be an ongoing journey to see these changes come into effect and that her mahi will most likely extend beyond the one-year duration of the pilot.
"It's going to be one step at a time but I want to do what I can to increase the opportunities that people have living in Wairoa. I'm keen to give it all a go if it helps our people and creates pathways for us," she said.