Airini Forbes had no great connection to Gisborne.
For a start, she grew up on the other coast, with mum from Porirua and Taranaki, dad from Kawhia and Raglan.
But two years ago, when she was living in Hamilton, her heart told her Gisborne was where she should be.
So she listened to her heart, packed up her house and drove 370km east to the first city in the world to see the new day.
“Moving here was a big thing, I didn’t know anyone, I’m not from here,” she says.
“But soon after arriving here I just felt connected.”
When she settled in Gisborne, her heart told her to take up raranga, so she did and “it seemed like the whole Māori world opened up to me”.
“Living here, people are quite old school, they seem more connected in some way, it’s like full immersion and from everything I’ve learned, this is where I’m meant to be.”
As a child, Airini had watched her kuia making piupiu and tukutuku panels.
She always wanted to learn and is loving every minute.
“Now I’m listening to my heart, it’s meant to be.”
She started her raranga journey with the Level 4 Kawai Raupapa Certificate in Māori Art at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and is now studying towards the Diploma in Māori art. She intends doing raranga for as long as possible.
Recently Airini was presented with a $2500 Toi Award for a Diploma in Māori and Indigenous Arts by the Aotearoa Scholarship Trust and says she hopes to use some of the funds to attend the National Weavers Hui in Rotorua later this year and to “put a deposit on a degree”.
“It’s just a big, massive help.”
Airini says she still has a long way to go with her weaving but is keen to teach others what she knows.
“I’ve still got lots to learn but I really want to teach other people, so everywhere I go I absorb everything I can by asking questions.”
Airini is also involved in fighting for clean water and organised the Gisborne Save our Water rally earlier this year while she has also curated the current exhibition at the Tairāwhiti Museum, Water is Life - He Ora Te Wai: Our stories of our Tairāwhiti waters, which is on until 26 November.
“I do a lot of work around water because everything we work with is from Papatūānuku and we have to look after her.”