South Aucklander Sheldon Rua using the arts to inspire rangatahi

Sheldon Rua (Waikato Tainui and Samoa) believes the arts can bring a community together and inspire rangatahi who are working “through their own colourful backgrounds”.

Rua is a renowned hip hop artist, spoken word poet and youth worker who has been making a change in his South Auckland community for many years.

“I think South Auckland is the most creative place in the world.”

The 23-year-old started making his mark in high school aiming to inspire, encourage and motivate others through creative arts.

In 2016 a performance of his poem “I am Māori” attracted more than 350,000 views on Facebook and in 2017 he was named Dux of Alfriston College.

From a young age, Rua had the “dancing bug” but it wasn’t until his later years when he started to take his creative side more seriously.

“It wasn’t just a hobby it started becoming something to generate an income or build communities or inspire people”

While studying at Alfriston College, Rua noticed how peers were struggling with living conditions and money. This is when decided to use the arts as a vessel to share his voice.

“When you heard the stereotypes around coming from South Auckland and being a young Māori boy in today’s world, there are things that spark and light fires inside you and for me, it was really deeply unsettling.”

Today, the South Aucklander is based in Blenheim, inspiring youth to share their own stories through the arts.

Living and working in the South Island is completely different to South Auckland but he has enjoyed the challenge.

Rua is one of 10 New Zealanders nominated in the Wellbeing category for this year’s Impact Awards.

The Wellbeing category recognises young New Zealanders who demonstrate leadership and are taking action to improve health and wellbeing outcomes in communities, schools or workplaces.

Although the nomination came as a shock, Rua is “truly humbled” by the nomination as it showed him the work he is doing is valued by those in the community.

“It’s nice to know that the mahi that I’ve done and been doing is recognised and it gives you a drive to keep pushing.

“Hauora (health) and wellbeing is something I am very very passionate about it’s fitting.”

Inspiring Stories founder Guy Ryan said there were over 400 applications and nominations for this year’s Impact Awards.

The winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony in Wellington in late July.

Looking back at his own whakapapa (genealogy) Rua commends his Pacific and Māori ancestors for his passion for storytelling.

“Oratory and telling story is rooted within our cultures and it’s in our blood to share,” he said.

Although he has enjoyed the challenge of working in Blenheim, Rua’s heart is in South Auckland and he will return to his hometown at the end of the year.

The Papakura native loves the “rugged and rawness” of his South Auckland community and is eager to get back.

“It’s the people who keep pulling me home.

“I have picked up a thing or two to take back to my hometown and my own hood,” he said.

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