A video of a 13-year-old legend doing a haka to tautoko his māmā at her university graduation is blowing up online.
Irene Moses graduated from Toi Ohomai-Te Pūkenga in Rotorua with a Bachelor of Social Work. Amidst hundreds of fellow graduates gathered at the Tangatarua Marae ceremony, her son Tawhiri put on a stirring performance to showcase his pride for his mother.
The powerful scene was captured on video and has resonated with viewers around Aotearoa and beyond.
Irene described Tawhiri's haka as "beautiful", saying she turned around and saw him "in all his glory".
"My name got called out to go up and get my certificate, and then as I was greeting a couple of my tutors along the way, I just heard my son's voice start a haka, and I thought, 'Oh my God, there's my boy'," she told The Project in an interview.
"This is something that I didn't know he was going to do."
"It was beautiful."
Tawhiri's haka went viral after being posted on TikTok, racking up millions of views. The overwhelming response left Tawhiri stunned, as he expressed his shock at waking up the following āta to see the astounding number of views his video had received.
"I just woke up and boom. 'Tawhiri, have you seen this? You're famous,'" he told The Project.
The marae graduation was a momentous occasion for the students, as it was the first in several years after numerous cancellations due to Covid, as reported by Toi Ohomai.
Irene's graduation marked the culmination of four gruelling years of mahi, during which her whānau didn't see as much of her as she juggled everything going on in her life.
“I’m in my 40s and I gave up my full-time job to study. I had to make everything work. Lockdown and online learning were really hard but I knew social work was a career I wanted and was hungry for," Irene's told the NZ Herald.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, including lockdowns and online learning, she remained determined to pursue her passion for social work. Upon completing her degree, Irene said she felt overwhelmed, noting that the graduation ceremony provided a sense of closure and accomplishment.
“When we were given the option of which location we wanted to have our ceremony, it was a no-brainer to go to Tangatarua. I was able to bring my whole whānau, who missed out on their mum for four years. It was also a way for us to celebrate our culture and our identity,” Irene added.
When Tawhiri performed his haka, members of another whānau quickly joined in to support the son's performance, which touched Irene's heart.
“I want to give a big shout-out to that whānau. It was so amazing. As a Kiwi, it’s just what we do. We see someone who needs tautoko and we get up and we do it,” Irene told the NZ Herald.
But this might not be the last graduation ceremony Irene's whānau celebrate, as she is already thinking about further studies.
"I actually really enjoyed studying. When I decided to study, it was going to be now or never. So I jumped on in there. Social work was what I wanted to do. It was my passion. It was going to be my career," she said in an interview with The Project.
"So I just got in there and did the four years of study and now I'm looking at doing more study."