Meet the Whakatāne teen putting his mark on the classic gumboot

Source: Seven Sharp

A Whakatāne teenager has been making his mark on the classic New Zealand gumboot, turning his love of art into a successful online business.

MokoBandz is the pakihi (business) of Malachi Kurei, a Year 13 student at Trident High.

He takes regular Skellerup Red Bands and transforms them into MokoBandz - gumboots featuring a hand drawn Māori design.

“I’ve always been a creative kid. Early on in my childhood, I have a lot of cousins and a lot of family members that draw and do a lot of Māori art," he said.

It all started when Malachi’s dad asked him if he could do some “Māori scribbles” on his gumboots.

“And I just felt like I could do it better so I gave it another go on someone else's boots,” he said.

“It took a long time because I was trying to figure out different pens that would work, what would rub off.”

Malachi posted his first pair on Facebook for sale at the start of 2022, and the orders started rolling in.

Every pair of his boots are different, and if the whakapapa of the person is known, he’ll link the design back to that. But if it’s not, he keeps it generic.

“Moko’s not for everybody, I didn't want to just share it with everyone who is not Māori.

"So if I use the generic patterns that are in kirituhi (non-traditional style that is not done using Māori protocols), I'm not crossing any boundaries and still giving the moko to everybody.”

Malachi fits in his designs around school and rugby. Despite the high demand, he has no plans on expanding just yet.

“It’s not just about making money at the moment. It's about sharing what I have with everyone else."