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Excellence in Māori arts celebrated with Te Waka Toi Awards

1 Sep 2012

This content is tagged as Ngā toi Māori .


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From orators to painters, dancers to composers; tohunga, artists and community leaders who have made an outstanding contribution to Māori arts have been honoured in Wellington.

From orators to painters, dancers to composers; tohunga, artists and community leaders who have made an outstanding contribution to Māori arts were honoured in Wellington tonight.

The annual Te Waka Toi Awards are the only national Māori arts awards to celebrate all art forms. Established in 1986, they recognise achievement in oratory, literature, music, performance, object and visual arts. Two scholarships are also awarded to emerging artists.

“Celebrating those who tirelessly promote and preserve Māori arts is a great honour for Te Waka Toi”, said Darrin Haimona, Chair of Te Waka Toi, the Māori arts board of Creative New Zealand, “through their generosity and talent, they have enriched communities and lives, and invested in a rich future for Māori arts”.  

The supreme award

The Māori King’s son, Te Ariki Tamaroa Whatumoana Paki, congratulated Dr Timoti Kāretu QSO (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tūhoe) on receiving Te Tohu Aroha mō Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. Dr Kāretu is synonymous with language excellence. He was the inaugural Māori Language Commissioner, has Honorary Doctorates from Victoria University of Wellington and The University of Waikato, is a director of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo (the Institute of Excellence in Māori Language) and is past Chair of Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust. A teacher and scholar, Professor Kāretu is also a prolific composer who once chaired the organisation now known as Te Matatini Society. He has expertise in Māori performing arts as a performer, tutor and judge. Professor Kāretu has written many books on Māori language and the arts. His award will be formally presented at his marae in October.

Lifetimes of service to Māori arts

Kaumatua who have devoted their lives to Māori arts were honoured with Nga Tohu a Tā Kingi Ihaka.

  • ·         Esther Kerr Jessop QSM, MSR, BA (Ngāi Tai), involved in the performing arts since the 1940s, Mrs Jessop returned from the United Kingdom to receive her award. A Founding Member and Honorary President of London Māori Club Ngāti Rānana, also Patron of Te Kohanga Reo, London; Mrs Jessop was honoured for leading a strong Māori cultural presence throughout Europe since the 1950s.
  • ·         Mita Mohi MBE (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa), was honoured for a lifetime of preserving Māori martial arts, first as an exponent of haka himself and later as a teacher. The founder of this country’s longest running mau taiaha wānanga, Mr Mohi has provided 35 years of expert tutelage to generations of males. He has served on marae committees, school trust boards, the New Zealand Parole Board and as kaumatua for the New Zealand Police.
  • ·         Hohipera Williams (Te Whakatōhea) was recognised for a lifetime of service to her marae, community and Ringatū church in Opotiki. As a native speaker of Māori, proficient in whakapapa and karakia, Mrs Williams continues to share her deep knowledge with whānau at her local kohanga reo. 
  • ·         Manuera Tohu QSM (Ngāti Kahu), is a Minister (Apotoro Rehita) of the Ratana Church, a Trustee for Te Kohanga Reo National Trust, kaumatua for the New Zealand Police and a deeply respected authority on tikanga and whakapapa. Based in Dargaville, he is recognised as a master of oratory and as a tireless, community worker.
  • ·         Maruhaeremuri Stirling (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāi Tahu) was honoured posthumously for her central role in revitalising te reo Māori in Canterbury over many years. A highly regarded kaikaranga, she was a ‘resident kaumatua’ during the Ngāi Tahu exhibition Mo Tātou at Te Papa and a treasured community leader. Mrs Stirling’s family accepted the award on her behalf.

Strengthening the Māori language

Professor Pou Temara (Ngāi Tūhoe) was recognised for his mastery of language with Te Tohu Aroha mō Ngoi Kumeroa Pēwhairangi. His profound knowledge of whaikōrero (oratory), whakapapa (genealogy) and karakia (incantations) have made him a recognised cultural authority. Professor Temara was appointed to the Waitangi Tribunal in 2008 and chairs the Repatriation Advisory Panel to Te Papa. He is Professor of reo and tikanga at the University of Waikato, has held senior lecturing positions at Victoria University and is one of three directors of Te Panekiretanga o te Reo.

Making a difference to the arts

Te Tohu Toi Kē, the award for making a positive difference to the development of Māori arts and culture was presented to Tama Huata ONZM (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou). With a background in live bands and television production, Mr Huata formed the Takitimu Performing Arts School (offering the first accredited certificate of Māori performing arts) and Kahurangi Māori Dance Theatre in 1983. Approaching its 30th anniversary celebrations, Kahurangi now showcases ‘exciting and innovative’ Māori dance theatre around the world. Mr Huata is Chair of the Ngāti Kahungunu Rūnanga Arts and Culture Board, He Kura Te Tangata  Kaumatua Kapa Haka, former Chair of Te Matatini Society and is a Fulbright Scholar (1994). He is currently Chief Executive Officer of Te Wānanga Whare Tapere o Takitimu in Hastings.

Two scholarship winners

Two emerging artists were awarded Nga Karahipi a Te Waka Toi, worth $4000 each.

·         Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Kāi Tahu, Rangitāne) is a painter who creates work which recalls the past, while focussing on contemporary Māori contexts. Rongomaiaia’s paintings are inspired by stories from her home, the Wairarapa.  She is currently exploring stories of taonga in museum collections. Rongomaiaia is in her first year of a Masters of Māori Visual Arts at Te Putahi-a-Toi, Massey University Palmerston North. 

·       Gisborne based Kingi Pitiroi (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) produces art including tā moko, three dimensional works, painting, reo Māori and kapa haka. With a Bachelor in Māori Visual Arts and Design, Kingi is currently practicing tā moko under the guidance of tohunga tā moko, Derek Lardelli. He is working towards a Certificate in Studio Workshop (Art and Design) at Toihoukura School of Māori Visual Arts. He is a member of Whangarā Mai Tāwhiti kapa haka and tutors secondary school students in the performing arts. Kingi’s vision is to return to Taupo to promote better appreciation of Māori arts and culture.