Te Waka Toi Awards winners announced for 2017

By Leo Horgan

Since 1986, the prestigious Waka Toi national annual awards have recognised excellence and achievement across all artforms including marae arts (traditional, marae-based artforms such as carving, and weaving) as well as contemporary artforms such as theatre, literature, film, photography, sculpture and visual arts.

They are hosted by Toi Aotearoa – the Arts Council of New Zealand – through Creative New Zealand and are supported by Te Puni Kōkiri, Te Papa, Te Matatini, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori  (The Māori  Language Commission).

Here are the recipients for 2017:

Te Tohu Aroha mō Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu (Supreme Award) in recognition of leadership, excellence and outstanding contribution to Māori arts:

Fred Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui, based in Waiuku), Tohunga contemporary sculptor.

One of the most influential figures in Māori art since the 1960s, 88-year-old Fred Graham is a prolific sculptor whose striking work is displayed prominently in many public spaces in New Zealand and overseas. His work has a strong connection to Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) through central themes inspired by Māori traditions and legends, as well as focusing on issues that continue to affect Māori today, reflecting his concern for the environment and loss of culture.

Te Tohu ā Ta Kingi lhaka in recognition of a lifetime contribution to strengthening Māori art and culture (five recipients):

Tawhiri Williams (Tūhoe, based in Auckland) MNZM, Marae Arts/Performing arts, Te Reo.

Tawhiri Williams has spent more than 50 years as a successful teacher, principal, teacher educator and kapa haka tutor. With his wife Kaa he started the first bilingual and then total immersion Māori medium school in New Zealand. He is a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to Māori and Education.

Kaa Williams (Tūhoe, based in Auckland) QSO, Marae Arts/Performing arts, Te Reo.

Kaa Williams has had a distinguished career in education and Māori broadcasting for more than 50 years. With her husband Tawhiri she started the first bilingual and then total immersion Māori medium school in New Zealand. She worked for Māori television in several roles and as an examiner for Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission). She is a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO).

Manahi Paewai (Rangitāne, based in Dannevirke) MNZM, Marae Arts.

Historian, educator and treaty negotiator, Manahi Paewai has played a key role in the development of tikanga and Ngā Toi Māori in the rohe of his iwi in the Tamaki nui nā Rua region for nearly seven decades. He is well known for collating the history of the Ngāti Mutuahi hapū of Ngāti Te Rangiwhaka-ewa and making it available at the Mākirikiri Marae in Dannevirke, which he also restored and preserved over many years. His leadership of many iwi and hapū bodies included a principal role in the formation of Rangitāne o Tamaki nui nā Rua and in its subsequent Treaty of Waitangi claim. In 2015 he became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM).

Ronald Boyd Hudson (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngaruahine, Whakatōhea, based in New Plymouth) QSM, Marae Arts.

A respected kaumatua, Ronald (‘Rocky’) Boyd Hudson is known for his knowledge of history, tikanga and Te Reo.  An advocate for better social and health services for Māori, he has been an iwi representative on several health organisation governance bodies. He also helped successfully negotiate land claims for two iwi, and assisted with the national Māori language dictionary project undertaken by Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission).  In 2015 he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for services to Māori.

Miriama Paraki (Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa, Tūhoe, based near Ruatahuna), Marae Arts.

Tūhoe kaumātua and renowned holder of customary knowledge, Miriama Paraki has for many decades been a leading and unwavering advocate of the iwi and hapū of Ruatāhuna.  The first female secretary of Te Umuroa Marae committee, she presented evidence of cultural suppression to the Waitangi Tribunal hearing in Ruatāhuna, outlining the impact of colonisation and suppression of Māori rights and the loss of Tūhoe tikanga. She is today regularly called upon by her community and whānau for advice, wisdom, and support.

Te Tohu Aroha mō Ngoi Kumeroa Pēwhairangi: "Whakarongo, Titiro, Kōrero" in recognition of leadership and outstanding contribution to the promotion of Te Reo Rangatira:

(Supported by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori).

Pembroke Peraniko Bird (Ngāti Manawa, Ngāti Tahu, based in Murapara) QSM, MNZM, Te Reo Māori.

Pembroke Peraniko (Pem) Bird has had a long and distinguished career in mainstream and Māori education. As a secondary school teacher and principal he has been a passionate advocate of advancing Te Reo Māori in education for many years. At the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Ministry of Education and Auckland University, he helped to develop Te Reo Māori courses and evaluation standards. In 2008 he received the Queen's Service Medal for services to education. This year he became a members of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education and to Māori.

Te Tohu Toi Kē a Te Waka Toi in recognition of a significant, positive impact on the development and practice of Māori arts:

Briar Grace-Smith (Ngāpuhi, based on the Kapiti Coast), Theatre, Literature, Film.

Writer of plays, screenplays, short fiction and radio and television scripts, Briar Grace-Smith was the inaugural recipient of the Arts Foundation Award and Writer in Residence at Victoria University in 2003. Her short fiction has been published in various anthologies and her feature film The Strength of Water premiered at the Rotterdam and Berlin Film Festivals in 2009. She has worked for the New Zealand Film Commission and has taught writing for theatre at the prestigious International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University.

Te Tohu Whakamanawa o Te Matatini in recognition of outstanding contribution to Kapa Haka:

(Supported by Te Matatini Kapa Haka Aotearoa).

Louise Kingi (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, based in Waihirere near Gisborne).

Having competed at the Te Matatini national kapa haka competitions every year since 1972, Louise Kingi is unrivalled in Aotearoa for her commitment to and aroha (love) of kapa haka. For more than four decades she has been an enthusiastic participant at Waihirere Māori Club’s weekly kapa haka practices. Known for her passionate performances, she is described as the sort of performer audiences cannot take their eyes off and has mentored many others over the years. “For some people it’s something you do. For me, it is a way of life,” she says.

Ngā Manu Pīrere in recognition of achievement by a young Māori artist at an early career stage (two recipients):

Chevron Te-Whetumatarau Hassett (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine, based in Lower Hutt) Photography and Visual Art.

Chevron Te-Whetumatarau Hassett is a talented young photographer who has found strength in his art and whakapapa to overcome personal hardship after a family tragedy last year. Chevron’s emerging career has involved advertising, journalism, mural and documentary projects.  His most recent personal project, Ko tōku taumata tonu, ko Hawaiki, is a photographic series accompanied with text and a book that discusses his family tragedy and his journey to find Hawaiki afterwards. It is in his words: “A self-discovery from darkness, using my work to guide me through the stages into the light and into the world.” 

Turene Huiarau Jones (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Whakaue, based in Auckland), Scriptwriting for Theatre and Screen.

Turene Huiarau Jones received an A+ for her first play, I Ain’t Mad At Cha, which was submitted for her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Drama. The play had a sold out season to critical acclaim at Basement Theatre and was a finalist in Playmarket’s b4 25 competition. After interning at South Pacific Pictures writing for television, she is now writing for the Canadian/New Zealand trans-media series Fierce Girls. She plans to continue writing for the screen and theatre and to one day write a novel or two.