A Hastings man who has spent the past three decades working towards putting Maori performing arts on the world stage was recognised at the annual Te Waka Toi Awards in Wellington on Saturday night.
Tama Huata, Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Porou, has a background in live music and television production. He formed the Takitimu Performing Arts School in Hawke's Bay, offering the first accredited certificate of Maori performing arts, and also formed the Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre, both in 1983.
The dance theatre is approaching its 30th anniversary and now performs to audiences all over the world, including regular tours to the US and Canada.
Mr Huata accepted the Te Tohu Toi Ke award for making a positive difference to the development of Maori arts and culture.
His whanau, performers of Kahurangi and representatives of the Ngati Kahungunu Iwi board were also in Wellington to watch him receive the award. He hoped the honour would encourage others to succeed in the arts.
"I guess it's about inspiring other people and encouraging them to have a vision to make a difference, in this case through the arts. That is the biggest thing, to actually have a go because at the end of the day talk only goes so far, it's about actions."
Mr Huata holds a number of leadership roles in Maori arts for Ngati Kahungunu and is also the executive director for the National Waiata Maori Music Awards, which will be held in Hawke's Bay in a couple of weeks.
"So I think this award bodes well for the dynamics of all those things and of course Te Waka Toi is one of those organisations supporting the awards this year."
Te Waka Toi is the Maori Arts Board of Creative New Zealand. Its awards were established in 1986 and recognise achievement in oratory, literature, music, performance, object and visual arts. Two scholarships are also awarded to emerging artists.
Other awards winners with connections to Ngati Kahungunu included Dr Timoti Karetu, who was the recipient of the Te Tohu Aroha mo Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu supreme award, presented by the Maori King, Te Arikinui Kingi Tuheitia.
Dr Karetu is well known for his work in language excellence. He was the inaugural Maori Language Commissioner, has honorary doctorates from Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Waikato, is a director of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo (the Institute of Excellence in Maori Language) and is chair of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust.