Interview and photograph by Florence Noble

For Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, Rawiri will be weaving a celebration of the language into his work as a bartender at Caretaker.

Are you from Auckland?

No, I grew up in Rotorua, so that’s where my family is from. 

How do you get to Britomart?

I train in!

What do you do here?

I work at Caretaker and Deadshot in Ponsonby. 

How did you get into it?

My brother asked if I’d like a job working in hospitality, because I enjoy talking to people. My brother works upstairs. 

What are you doing to celebrate Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori / Māori Language Week?

We’ll be speaking as much Māori as we can in my flat. And at Caretaker, next Tuesday I’ll be hosting, so speaking Māori to people as the come in the door, like “Ngā mihi”- Hello “Tokomaha tātou”- How many people are we? And if they can answer me in Māori they’ll get a treat. We have a band playing and some Māori songs and there’ll be Māori dishes. We’ll have as many sing-songs as we can, celebrating and rekindling that spark of Māori that I love, and we love so much. Celebrating the language and the stories.

What’s your iwi association?

My mum is from Te Arawa so she’s Ngati Whakaue and my dad is Ngapuhi, so he’s from up North and he’s Ngai Tawake. My Dad’s dad spoke old Māori, whereas the Māori I speak is a modern. I make sure my Dad speaks it as well.

What is your favourite Māori inspired cocktail?

It’s called the Pineapple Polynesian Wahine, so it’s mint and cucumber, lime, a touch of sugar and you can use any spirit, I’m a big fan of rum, served on crushed ice and some pineapple. It’s very tropical and refreshing.

What are the special local ingredients you’re using next week?

We’ll be using manuka honey and kawakawa garnishes and herbs. I want to use kamo kamo [a type of squash] as well, but it might be a bit hard! I do think it would be funny.

What are your favourite Māori songs for the sing-a-long?

Tutira Mai is a good one, as most people will be able to sing along.

What will you be singing?

Quite a few. The one I sing a lot is ‘E Papā,' which you sing whilst also playing a stick game. You have these two sticks – when I grew up they were just rolled-up newspaper because you can’t throw sticks at people. You hit them on the table then try to throw them to someone else whilst singing the song. It takes some coordination. 

What’s your idea of fun?

I grew up at the beach, so my fun is exploring and getting stuck into nature. Growing up Māori you’re always trying to be as in tune with nature as possible, which is one thing I really miss about home. Going out to the beach and walking through forests, exploring and singing! I love singing. Everyone I work with can attest to that. It helps me relax. 

Are you good at it?

I sing enough to think I am, but I wouldn’t go on X Factor. I enjoy singing, whether it be flat as a pancake or like a mariachi kind of guy. It’ll get progressively worse as I drink.

Whats your favourite thing to spend money on?

Food. Or movies. Probably food. I love cooking on my days off, and finding something to bake. 

Have you got your eye on anything to buy at the moment?

More ta moko. I’d like to finish off my sleeves.

Where’s your favourite place to eat around here?

Ooh The Māori Kitchen – it’s proper traditional hāngi cooked underground for about six hours in good soil. He’s got to do a lot of digging! He does it out in Waitakere. He’s also a friend of my closest mate, and he’s a lovely guy. Their hāngi pies are super good.

Where’s the best place for a beverage around here?

Am I biased if I say Caretaker? 

Yes, but if it’s true then it doesn’t matter.

I come here on my days off! But I also go out to Talulah for cheeky cocktails. 

What’s your favourite one here?

The Back Woods, bit of bitter, bit of sweet. It’s mescal. I’m a fan of mescal because the way it’s made is a lot like a hāngi, like they smoke it underground. I realised I like it because it reminds me of home.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I believe in spirits, but more in a nice way. I think they’re there to protect you, not in a knock-over-your-lampshade kind of way. Or if they do, it’s because you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing. They’re there to push you toward the right decisions.