Members of an Aotearoa New Zealand whānau (family) have been found in Rarotonga as they try to preserve their language and identity for the next generation.
Ngā Tamariki Mānihera is a music performance group from the North Island in New Zealand, specifically: Ngātiwai, Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu all of the Tai Tokerau area and Muriwhenua.
They homeschool their kids and speak te reo Māori, one of three official languages of New Zealand alongside English or Reo Pākehā and New Zealand Sign Language.
Now steeped in Māori culture, these Kiwi kids, Ngā Tamariki Mānihera are proud of their language.
"Ko tōkū ao, he ao manawanui, he ao ataahua, nōkū te whiwhinga nui. Ko taku kōrero ki ngā tamariki ano ngā tamariki Māori, kia kaha tonu, kia ako i te reo Māori, kia tika, kia ora tonu ai mo ngā uri whakaheke kei te heke mai.
"Speaking our language is a privilege, it's empowering and it is beautiful. I encourage all Māori children to embrace, learn and speak our language, keep it alive for future generations," 12-year-old Tumanako Mānihera said.
Tumanako is one of the lead singers in Ngā Tamariki Mānihera who have been retracing the waves made by their waka or vaka, which made the journey to Aotearoa from the Cook Islands.
Tumanako Manihera said speaking te reo Māori is a "privilege, empowering and beautiful".
"Ko te ao Māori kei runga, ko te reo Māori kei runga, otirā ko te ao, ko te ara o nga uri whakaheke kei runga.
"Maintaining our culture and our language will help build a brighter future for generations to come," he said.
Knowledge is power
Ma'uke historian Tinokura Auru Tairea said Te Mata Atua, otherwise known as Mataatua canoe, made landfall in Aotearoa over 800 years ago.
He said Te Mata Atua was built in Ma'uke, one of the outer islands.
"Now you people pronounce it over here as Mataatua what is the meaning of that? The meaning of it, when my tipuna named that vaka ko taratoa ariki, he says, the eyes of God above will look after you as you travel the ocean."
"Captain Cook came over there, he came through Tahiti, he didn't come to the Cook Islands. Then he raped our girls, our people, our young girls. He took the girls on these boats, 13, 14 15, 16 (years old) and he raped them," Tairea said, as he tried to explain the pains of the past.
"And now they call my Island the Cook Islands."
To Tairea, his home is Avaiki Nui not Cook Islands.
One of only two Avaiki or Cook Islands master navigators Captain Peia Patai, who also hails from Mou'ke, said he has grown up knowing about the Te Mata Atua.
He has dedicated his life to retracing the steps of his ancestors and gathering navigation knowledge that he says has been lost.
Stories like those of the last movement of Polynesians to New Zealand.
"There's a responsibility for me to make sure that doesn't disappear again, so that our young children don't go through the same thing I went through," Patai said.
"So that it can be taught to anyone. It does not matter what race you are, or who you are, a man or a woman. And that knowledge should be passed on."
Now, he is training up the next generation of voyagers, inspired by Hōkūleʻa to bring the knowledge of navigating and voyaging back to the Cook Islands.
On top of that, he is collecting all the old knowledge and all the old stories for his elders, before they are lost forever.
"All of that has disappeared. It isn't even in the islands, you know, people think, oh, maybe the knowledge is still in there. Well it's not. The reason why, because a lot of our old people have moved into New Zealand, and Australia for health reasons," he explained.
So he is going to them and collecting their stories first hand.
"The knowledge is very scarce," he said.
A history vital to provide the missing pieces not only to Avaiki atua or Cook Islands Māori but Avaiki tatou or New Zealand Māori like Raiha Mānihera.
"We found out some amazing things that we also came from Atiu, which is an outer island, Mou'ke as well," Raiha Mānihera said.
Raiha Hinemoa Mānihera is the Poutokomanawa or chief executiuve of Te Whānau Mānihera.
"Our kaupapa is about sharing our reo and our culture," she said.
"We wanted to come here and do a bit of a cultural exchange and share some of what we've done in Aotearoa."
"It's beautiful to see the connection that we have, the similarities, and also the evolution of our culture. So the way that we cook our food is a little bit different. Not too different.
The group stayed at Aotearoa in Rarotonga. It is a marae or hostel.
Derek Fox, president of the Aotearoa Society, said it was built on land gifted to New Zealand by the local ariki or chief, the late Ariki Makea Vakatini Joseph Tepo Ariki, who was a great supporter of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society.
"We're getting groups from New Zealand coming up, Māori groups like this one, wanting to establish where they came from.
"This was the last stopping off point before waka went from here to Aotearoa and more and more New Zealand Māori are wanting to come and make that connection and see where their Tipuna came from," Fox said.
It's situated near the main town in Rarotonga where each of the Pa Enua or outer islands have a hostel.
While the building is seen as just another hostel to some, to Fox it's more than that.
"I think it's a marker," he said.
"When we were growing up, we grew up in a very urbanized place," Raiha Mānihera said.
"What helped us is learning songs from our culture. And that's what kind of made us feel connected to who we were."
"We didn't realise that we were having trouble until we started learning our language. And we started learning about our culture that we realised that the pain that we were in because we didn't have it."
Fighting to preserve culture
Raiha Mānihera said while the children enjoyed singing, swimming with turtles and drinking nu or coconuts, for the adults, this time has been somewhat of a rebirth.
"We wanted our kids to live in a world where they felt comfortable with who they were. And so we fought hard for it," she said.
She has fought hard for her children because she hasn't always felt connected to her culture.
"We felt like we were lesser because we weren't connected to our people," Raiha Mānihera said.
"But just know that you are capable, you are strong enough to do it and you don't have to be anything else in order to be Māori."
"You just are because of your ancestors, because of the fight that they've fought for many, many years. You are enough."
This is a sentiment now reflected in the children of the group.
Eight-year-old Ngāroimata Mānihera said her connection to her language and now her ancestors' story is her superpower.
It means everything to her, "it is my world" she said.
When asked if her reo gives her strength this was her response:
"Ae, tā te mea koina te tihi o taku manawa, koira te ao o taku manawa, no reira ko tōkū mihi ki aku pakeke na ratou i whakaako mai i a mātou."
"Yes, it means everything to me, it is my world, I want to thank my parents and elders for teaching us and helping us keep it alive."
Three-year-old Te Ata Mahina, who jumped in on our interview saying she had something to say.
"Hikina te manuka!" - meaning "Take the challenge, move forward and pave the way for your descendants."
Hikina te manuka, a call from the pēpē or baby of the group.