For Nepia Takuira-Mita, art is about bringing people together.
The Ahikaroa series star and TikTok influencer tries to combine his passion for creativity and his Māori culture in all his work.
"I just hope that we can all come together and there's a deeper understanding towards things Māori, towards the indigenous people that there's more awareness of the history," Takuira-Mita told the Rotorua Daily Post.
Te reo Māori is Takuira-Mita's first language, and though the actor spent most of his life in Wellington, he connects tribally to the lands of Te Arawa in Rotorua.
"My siblings and I were quite lucky to have te reo as our first language. We didn't know how to speak proper English until age 8 or 9."
Takuira-Mita's father is Māori and served in the New Zealand Army. His mother is Samoan and English but learnt te reo for her family.
Takuira-Mita and his five sisters grew up speaking te reo at home. Attending kohanga reo and kura kaupapa helped them to keep up the language.
"I'm dad's only son. I was definitely not spoiled. [There was] a lot of responsibility growing up to learn the traditions.
"Te reo was normal. There's memories of being on the bus with my family, with my sister and talking about secrets in te reo so people didn't understand. That was fun to me as a kid."
Though Takuira-Mita now views that early learning as a privilege and the source of his passion, there were times when his younger self took his culture for granted.
"I wanted to go to mainstream schools. I kind of unconsciously bought into the idea that you couldn't get far with te reo.
Takuira-Mita said kapa haka helped him to grow in appreciation for te reo and his culture because it gave the language a physical form of expression.
"Once I did leave school and went to uni I didn't have [te reo] around me as much and it made me miss it."
Looking back on his schooling and teenage years, Takuira-Mita can see the beginnings of a lifelong passion.
"I think just the passion for creating and that all started with kapa haka, it's a way of expression. From there, I decided to jump the fence and dabbled in theatre. From there the bug kind of grew."
These days Takuira-Mita has thousands of followers on Tik Tok where he posts videos that aim make learning te reo easy and fun.
"It's what I love to do. TikTok isn't just about scrolling through a feed. It engages you to be creative. It forces you to make dances, and sing."
Takuira-Mita believes in the power of social media to inspire the next generation.
"For the reo to keep getting stronger there needs to be interest there straight away."
Contrary to what he thought as a young adult, te reo has taken Takuira-Mita to places beyond his dreams.
"Without te reo I wouldn't have landed my role in Ahikaroa which has been going for four seasons and we're hoping for a fifth. Te reo took me to Japan for kapa haka. It's done so much for me."
Takuira-Mita wants to follow in the footsteps of people he considers pioneers such as Cliff Curtis, Stan Walker and Timoti Karetu.
He also wants to eventually work more behind the scenes.
"One of the things I want to do is to write stories, to tell our stories. Write stuff that is from us, for us, by us.
"We are storytellers, that's what we're good at."