Rotorua student Turanga Mahutonga admits he has always struggled to express himself through speech.

But give him a pen and paper, paint or - more lately - an iPad, and he can explain everything in detail.

Mahutonga, a Yoobee College Rotorua student, has been awarded the Indigenous Legends Scholarship in recognition of his digital abilities.

The Indigenous Legends Scholarship is a scholarship offered by Youbee to support high achieving Māori and Pasifika people looking at starting a career in the creative industries.


It entitled Mahutonga to a fully-paid scholarship and entrance into a programme offered by Yoobee Colleges – a full year of tertiary study starting this month.

To be considered for a scholarship, Mahutonga needed to create a submission that had a traditional cultural element in the form of a design, animation (hand-drawn or digital), short video or series of photographs.

An image from Turanga's winning design. Photo / Supplied
An image from Turanga's winning design. Photo / Supplied

He submitted a piece that describes who he is in relation to his town, Rotorua, and his culture.

"I used my classmates as subjects for my level 3 art boards," he said. "I took photos of them in kapa haka uniform and then incorporated them into my art boards to show the different stars pertaining to Matariki."

He said the winning piece was the personification of Matariki, the main star and the mother of all the other stars.

"Some say that she embodies the eyes of God," Mahutonga said.

Raised in an environment that encompasses his stories and histories, Mahutonga wanted to bring these stories to life through the art of animation.

"I come from a creative family, so I guess that side of things comes naturally. I started with pen and paper but once I was introduced to digital, things became even easier and I could do more.


"My goal is to work at an animation studio and use digital art to tell my own indigenous stories and create an animated series."