An enduring and inspirational leader, an unbreakable friendship and an uncompromising, high profile activist featured in the seven recipients of the 2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate Awards.
There was also an historic first award for the queer arts community, completing a domination of Māori and Pasifika artists at a gala event to remember at the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre at Auckland’s Aotea Centre on Friday night.
Tame Iti needs no introduction - and fresh off a starring role as himself in Muru, the Tūhoe movie about the 2007 anti-terror raids, his rich and varied artistic endevours saw the elder statesman rewarded with the Burr/Tatham Trust Award.
The selection panel highlighted “a bone-deep commitment to his practice .. using creativity as a vessel for change.”
But the man himself was disappointed after a ceremony packed full of warmth, heart and laughter.
“I kind of got stuck for words, got stuck in emotion and wanted to say many other things. I just couldn’t do it. This thing’s bigger than me”.
Iti is in his early seventies and after his turbulent career, there’s more to come artistically.
“Life’s just starting now I know what freedom is.”
Multi-talented and award-winning artist Linda Lepou has emerged from an extended judging process to collect Aotearoa’s first dedicated award for queer artists … the Toi Kō Iriiri Queer Laureate Award.
Her work encompasses the fashion and art worlds and her fa’afafine identity – both at home and internationally, working with legends like Vivienne Westwood and Christian Dior and coining the phrase ‘Pacific Couture’. She added a comedic edge to the appreciative gallery during her acceptance speech.
There’s an unshakable bond between Maureen Lander and the four creative wāhine forces that make up Mata Aho Collective, who’ve snared two of the laureate awards on offer on an auspicious night for collaboration and weaving artists.
Last year they were winners of the Walters Prize for their foreboding and spellbinding masterpiece Atapō (before dawn) at Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art which dominated imaginations at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
Dr Maureen Lander MNZM has been at the creative edge of Māori weaving skills and installation art for decades, and now can add the Therese Gattung Female Arts Practitioners Award to her list of honours - describing the achievement to The Big Idea as pretty amazing.
“It’s a recognition of the work us weavers have done - which has always been collaborative in a way - you don’t know who they are in a meeting house, because there might be a master weaver or a master carver. But it’s the work of a group that can’t be done by one person.”
After retiring from teaching, she continues to create with students at her beloved Auckland University where two years ago she became the first person of Māori descent to be awarded a Doctorate in Fine Arts.
This year's Arts Laureates together on stage. Photo: Chris Forster.
Her preferred way of working on large installations is collaboration and she has struck a fine partnership with Mata Aho Collective - who’ve embraced their mentor.
Erena Baker, Sarah Hudson, Bridget Rewei and Terri Te Tau are a collective tour de force, going from strength to strength here and overseas - with their large scale works featuring whiri, or traditional finger-weaving techniques.
The quartet told The Big Idea they prefer not to be quoted individually, central to an unwavering commitment to their daunting creations - “We’re more like a choir, we all sing the same song. Friendship is at the core of the collective, that boosts our personal connections and capabilities.”
Lander is certainly impressed. “They are bold and they are brave - I can occupy space but not in such a bold way as they do.”
The united quartet see the Laureate for the My Art Visual Arts Award as recognition for weaving and the power of collaboration.
“Not only for our practice here in Aotearoa, but also the customary Māori techniques we use, certain weaving styles and fibre arts .. and for all the people who’ve shared knowledge with us.
“We’re hoping the kind of visibility this laureate gives to the arts will be encouraging for young practitioners, finding people to work with each other in endeavors that can be quite isolating.”
It was a red letter night in the heart of Auckland’s CBD for Māori and Pasifika communities.
Areta Wilkinson is a conceptual contemporary artist - who likes to be known as the ‘Ngai Tahu Jeweller’ - who also extends to installations, and her vision of applied art and indigenous philosophies earned her the Jillian Friedlander Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Award.
Hone Kouka MNZM is a prolific Māori talent behind a raft of productions for theatre and film, as a director, producer and writer. He is the co-founder of theatre company Tawata Productions as part of an impressive list of achievements which has seen him travel and work around the globe and is now a Laureate after collecting the Sir Roger Hall Theatre Practitioner Award.
Literature completed the domination for Māori talent.
Paula Morris MNZM is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, essayist, editor and tireless advocate. Her prolific career looms large over the literary brilliance of Aotearoa and she’s committed to encouraging and keeping an open dialogue with new voices.
The seven Laureates were chosen following what's been described as a rigorous selection process by an independent panel of experts, with the new Toi Kō Iriri award given its own selection panel.
2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate Award Recipients
Dr. Maureen Lander MNZM – Multi-media Installation
2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Theresa Gattung Female Arts Practitioners Award
Tame Iti – Multi-Disciplinary
2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Burr/Tatham Trust Award
Mata Aho Collective – Installation
2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the My Art Visual Arts Award
Areta Wilkinson – Māori Arts
2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Jillian Friedlander Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Award
Hone Kouka MNZM – Theatre / Film
2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Sir Roger Hall Theatre Practitioner Award
Paula Morris MNZM – Literature
2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate
Lindah Lepou – Multi-Disciplinary
2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate becoming the inaugural winner of Toi Kō Iriiri Queer Laureate Award