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Massey lecturer and artist receives honour

Kura Te Waru-Rewiri accepting the ‘Te Tohu o Te Papa Tongarewa Rongomaraeroa Award from Deputy Chair of the Arts Council, Caren Rangi.

Professor Te Waru-Rewiri accepting the 'Te Tohu o Te Papa Tongarewa Rongomaraeroa Award for outstanding contribution to Ngā Toi Māori’ from Deputy Chair of the Arts Council, Caren Rangi. Photo by Andrew Warner and supplied by Creative New Zealand.

Professor Kura Te Waru-Rewiri, of Ngāti Kahu, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kauwhata, and Ngāti Rangi, was awarded the Te Tohu o Te Papa Tongarewa Rongomaraeroa award at Creative New Zealand’s Te Waka Toi awards in Rotorua last week.

Professor Te Waru-Rewiri is one of Aotearoa New Zealand's most celebrated Māori women artists. The Associate Professor of Māori art at Toioho ki Āpiti Māori Visual Arts programme at Manawatū was honoured for her outstanding contribution to Ngā Toi Māori (Māori art).

She studied fine art at Ilam School of Fine Arts and became a member of Ngā Tamatoa Māori activist group, which provided the incentive for her to address the issues related to Te Tiriti o Waitangi in her paintings.

She taught art in schools, tertiary institutions, universities and whare wānanga. In 1985 she began to paint fulltime; starting out in a garage in Otara where the figurative form and the carved subject were her inspiration.

Professor Te Waru-Rewiri assisted the first cultural exchange with Hawaiian artists under the auspices of the Council for Māori and South Pacific Arts and was a founding member of the Te Atinga Committee, Toi Māori. In 1990 she received a Queen Elizabeth’s Arts Council Grant to produce work based on the 150 years commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1993 she and prominent Māori artist, Selwyn Murupaenga, were the first Māori appointments to the Elam School of Fine Arts. 

From 1996 to 2006 she lectured at Toioho ki Āpiti and was the first to achieve Massey University’s Master of Māori Visual Arts. During this time she helped set up the Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi Bachelor of Māori Art in Whakatane.

Professor Te Waru-Rewiri has been a key contributor to contemporary Māori exhibitions both in New Zealand and overseas. In 2012 Māngere Art Centre Ngā Tohu o Uenuku held a survey exhibition of her work. The accompanying publication is considered a testament to her standing within New Zealand’s contemporary artistic landscape and her mana within Māori art.

Her paintings are held in prestigious collections such as Wellington’s Te Papa Museum, Auckland Art Gallery, Waikato Museum of Art & History, Dunedin Art Gallery, the University of Auckland and the National Art Gallery of Australia, Canberra. In 2016 she was inducted into the College of Creative Arts’ Hall of Fame.

The 2019 winners of the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi awards. Photo by Andrew Warner and provided by Creative New Zealand.

The 2019 winners of Te Waka toi awards. Professor Te Waru-Rewiri is seated second from left. Photo by Andrew Warner and supplied by Creative New Zealand. 

Head of Whiti o Rehua School of Art Professor Huhana Smith says she is delighted on behalf of Toioho ki Āpiti, Whiti o Rehua and wider colleagues across Toi Rauwhārangi College of Creative Arts that this award had been bestowed upon Professor Te Waru-Rewiri.

“She personifies the strength and temerity of a formidable Māori woman,” Professor Smith says. “Kura is never the show pony, as she exercises her mana wahine or leadership prowess as a Māori woman who nurtures and nourishes all via her presence, her dedication to her art and the education of contemporary Māori visual knowledge.”

The awards are convened by the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa. 

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