Piri Sciascia ONZM Ngāti Kahungunu, Kai Tahu

21 Jan 2020

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Photo credit: 2016 Professor Piri Sciascia, Te Herenga Waka Marae.
Photo credit: 2016 Professor Piri Sciascia, Te Herenga Waka Marae.

Kua hinga tēnei rātā whakamarumaru o Takitimu waka i te wao tapu nui a Tāne. He toka tū moana, he kanohi hōmiromiro, he ihumanea, he kaitiaki nō tōna pātaka iringa kōrero, kua kore. He toki tārai kōrero, whakapara i te huarahi mō ngā ringa rehe toi Māori, me ngā toi taketake, ngā toi o inaianei o Aotearoa me ōna hītori, kua riro.

Aue te mamae e. Kei te hahae te tau o te ate, kei te hotu te whatumanawa, kei te pātuki te tārāuma, kei te mōteatea ngā mahara mō koe, mō ngā tāngata o te motu ka huri kaaweka nei. Kāti rā, ‘He kokonga whare e kitea, he kokonga ngākau e kore e kitea’.

Moe mai rā, e te rangatira.

Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa pays respect to arts leader Professor Piri Sciascia who passed on the weekend.

"The arts sector has lost a great leader, and te ao Māori has lost a champion," said Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright.

"Piri was stimulating to talk to – and giving; so giving to the arts sector, where he would proffer the most fascinating historical evidence on te ao Māori (the Māori world) and ngā toi Māori (Māori arts). He was a fountain of knowledge and passionate regarding these matters, sharing his knowledge with fellow arts leaders to ensure ngā toi Māori were recognised for their true value."

In 2016 Piri was recognised for a lifetime of service to Māori arts, receiving a Ngā Tohu ā Tā Kingi Ihaka award in the Te Waka Toi Awards. What perhaps isn't as widely known is that Piri was part of a strong collective Māori voice that ensured that the legal arrangements that followed the QE11 Arts Council in 1994 uplifted the mana of Māori, and Māori arts.

In particular, the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aoteroa Act 1994 established the Te Waka Toi board which gave Māori autonomy over investment into ngā toi Māori, and ensured a commitment to strong Māori representation on the Governing Board of the Arts Council.

The success of the landmark Te Māori exhibition 1984, of which Piri was a key driver, cemented the rightful need to recognise Māori arts excellence, which led to the development of the annual Te Waka Toi awards.

Piri has been involved in the conservation and promotion of Māori performing arts for more than 40 years – as a member of the Māori Theatre Trust world tour in 1970, and the founder of Tamatea Arikinui (Kahungunu's oldest kapa haka), of which he was also a performer, composer, tutor, advisor and leader for the group.

Piri wasn't just an arts advocate; he was an artist in his own right as a composer, performer and leader in traditional Māori performing arts. He touched the hearts and minds of people with his intelligence and his eloquence. Piri exemplified artistic excellence and enabled human dignity in the highest form. Piri was a good friend to the arts and his leadership will be missed immensely. Creative New Zealand offers its deepest condolences to his whānau. E ngā hoa mahi a Ana, Tū, Marina, Dee, Gaylene me te whānau whānui kei te tangi tahi tātou.

E te hoa e Piri, haere atu rā ki ngā toi o ngā rangi, waiho mai āu mahi nui hei oranga mō tātou.