Tū Hana te Tā! Sir Derek Lardelli Knighted for services to Māori Art

By James Perry

Tohunga tā moko and kapa haka exponent Sir Derek Arana Te Ahi Lardelli (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Konohi, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kaipoho) has been made a Knight Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) for services to Māori art in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

He is humbled by the honour and says it rightfully belongs to the entire Māori Arts community.

“Me tuku te taitara nei ki te motu. I te ao mau ki tū, ao mau ki tā. Mā te ao mau ki tā te taitara nei e hiki, e amo i runga i te taumahatanga o tērā taitara. (This title belongs to the whole country.  Everyone who is helping revive our taonga can help carry this significant title.)

“Engari rā tēnei kupu Māori Art, ā kei ngā tohunga toi o te motu te wikitōria i tēnei wā.” (At the end of the day, this thing we call Māori Art, all of our artists across the country have been recognised today.)


Sir Derek Lardelli speaking at Waikato University when he received an Honorary Doctorate in 2019. Photo/File

Sir Derek has been at the forefront of the revitalisation of traditional Māori Art for over 30 years, including tā moko, carving, painting and is a Professor and principal lecturer at Toihoukura, School of Māori Visual Arts in Gisborne.

He pays tribute to his own mentors, teachers and elders who passed on their knowledge to him.

“Tērā reanga kua ngaro atu ki te pō. E whakaaro nui ana ki a rātou i te mea nā rātou tonu au i poipoi, i manaaki.” (That generation who are no longer with us. My thoughts are with them as they’re the people who inspired and guided me.)

As an artist, his work is found in national and international collections, public and private as well as open places. Most notably his creation Māui Whakairo, a set of carvings done with the assistance of his students, was installed on Hikurangi to welcome in the new millennium in the year 2000.

Sir Derek has also been heavily involved in the retention of tikanga, whakapapa and history of traditional Māori art including karakia and is regarded as leading the renaissance of this art form.


Sir Derek Lardelli at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018. Photo/file

His art is not limited to traditional art forms however, Sir Derek is also an accomplished graphic designer and has traditional design merged traditional design with contemporary practices. He has created designs for the New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams.

As a kapa haka leader and tutor, Sir Derek has led Whāngārā Mai Tāwhiti to national success. Lifting the Duncan McIntrye Memorial trophy twice as Te Matatini supreme champions, in 2007 and again in 2017.


Sir Derek Lardelli has led Whangara Mai Tawhiti to two Te Matatini titles. Photo/file

Sir Derek is also an accomplished composer, most famously writing Te Kapa o Pango for the All Blacks rugby team first performed in 2005. He has also composed the New Zealand Universities Rugby team haka, and most recently ‘Poutangata’ was composed for the NZ Olympic Committee.

His service to Māori Arts has seen Sir Derek serve on various boards and committees. He is a Trustee of Toi Māori Aotearoa and is a former Trustee of the NZ Arts Foundation.

As a member of Te Papa’s Repatriation Advisory panel, he provides guidance to the museum’s repatriation team that negotiates and facilitates the return of ancestral remains of both Māori and Moriori.

Sir Derek has also served on the Waitangi Tribunal.

Sir Derek Lardelli will be appearing on Te Ao Tapatahi this morning. 7am on the Te Ao Māori Facebook page, and 8am on Māori TV.