Tangiwai Ria is recognised nationally for her involvement in kapa haka and is a life member of Te Matatini. She's led the group since 1988 while also leading her iwi of Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki to a better and brighter future.
Tangiwai Ria takes her place amongst New Zealand's highest achievers.
"The group Waihirere both o-mua and the current group, a lot of people sat in there with me today. And like the other recipients of this taonga, it was time to shed a few tears and to say a quiet thank you to a whole lot of them and I'm feeling a bit like that now,” says Ria.
A lady of poise, humility, and class.
From the humble beginnings of this small settlement outside of Gisborne, Aunty Tangiwai, as they call her, led Waihīrere Māori Club for more than 14 years, taking them to three national titles.
“I haven't got the capacity to teach, lead and perform to the perfection that is required at Te Matatini but I just love been there. I love music I am music."
This year, Ria made her first appearance at Te Matatini Festival, conducting their choral. The experience was brief yet special in its own way.
"That particular stage at Te Matatini, has always been a space where I go ‘ooooh I'm back’ and a hint of sadness as well because a lot of the people were my peers or have passed on."
She's been instrumental in the wellbeing of her tribe, Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, helping to establish a program for their future leaders that preserves the flora and fauna of Waihīrere Domain.
"All of those tipuna, who as a young person growing up had a huge influence on the many things that I've done in my life and I have to say sitting there listening to some of the things today, it's been a good life."