Formerly from Gisborne and living in Flaxmere with her partner Lachlan, Alexia is just as excited about being capped Bachelor of Arts (Maori) from EIT as she was graduating Bachelor in Maori Performing Arts from Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi last year.
“I love being Maori,” she says. “I like being around my culture and interacting with people from other areas.”
Studying for her Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary), the 27-year-old wants to be a teacher so she can help young people who may face challenges similar to those she experienced as a teenager.
Steeped in te reo Maori from kohanga through to intermediate school level, Alexia didn’t know what had hit her when she reached high school.
“I didn’t understand the teachers, couldn’t read or write in English and my maths was very poor. I was hard-headed during those years and wouldn’t listen when my parents tried hard to help me with my homework.
“So like a lot of our youth who take the wrong path because they’ve never really ‘fitted in’ to mainstream education, I found high school became too difficult and left at 15.”
Alexia grew up in the Mormon faith and in family-orientated surroundings.
“As I got older, I went off track but was slowly encouraged by my mentor Pura Tangira to much better avenues, including kapa haka.”
Joining the kapa haka group Te Waka Huia in 2006 was a turning point for Alexia, whose lineage is Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu, Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhuri, Tainui waka.
Earlier this year, she was spending every weekend in Auckland rehearsing with Te Waka Huia for Te Matatini National Kapahaka, which was held in Rotorua in February as a four-day event.
”Te Waka Huia’s latest success can best be described by the Maori whakatauki (proverb) ‘Ko taku toa no te takitini!’ meaning, ‘My success is of the collective’,” she says with characteristic modesty. “Now, with the pressure off, I can focus more fully on my studies.”
Last year, Alexia moved to Hawke’s Bay – where her kuia Materoa Haenga is senior lecturer at EIT’s Te Manga Maori – to study for her second degree.
“I have really enjoyed studying with students and staff of Te Uranga Waka at the Faculty of Maori Studies, making new friends, meeting whanaunga (relatives) and learning more about my Ngati Kahungunu links, tribal stories, sayings and songs.”
Alexia has travelled further afield to China, to perform with Te Waka Huia at the World Expo in Shanghai. Visiting sites such as The Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, she found China a very different cultural experience.
“I love to travel,” she says. “I want to go to the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, Europe, everywhere,”
In the meantime, though, she is enjoying her time at EIT and in Hawke’s Bay.