Teen Afghan refugee brothers take out prestigious Māori carving competition

Two brothers from Afghanistan have taken out a prestigious carving competition for secondary school students.

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Mahdi, 18, and 17-year-old Ali Abed Hussaini arrived here in 2014 and have thrived learning about Māori culture. Source: Te Karere

Mahdi, 18, and 17-year-old Ali Abed Hussaini of Auckland's Otahuhu College took out the top two spots at this year's Ringa Toi Exhibition, the annual showcase of Māori artwork for college students. 

The pair arrived as refugees in 2014 and live with their aunt and uncle.

Ali told TVNZ's Te Karere that learning about Māori tikanga helped connect them to their own culture.

"We learn about the Māori culture, the language and the hospitality of the Māori culture, which is similar to my culture." 

He said it was important to them to recognise the history of Māori and New Zealand, and the place of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Madhi said they were inspired to take up whakairo (Māori carving), after visiting a museum and seeing the carvings and design process.

He didn't expect to become so proficient, so quickly.

"I wasn't really sure that I could win this year, that was so surprising to me."