This is important so tā moko artists across the country can reconnect, evaluate the work that has been done in the previous 12 months, and then ascertain up-andcoming projects. However, the major spinoff for the Tairāwhiti community is the opportunity to see a raft of tā moko artists demonstrate their exceptional craft in an open, public gathering.
Professor Derek Lardelli, one of Toihoukura’s principal tutors, has been the figurehead behind both aspects of the wānanga for a number of years. As chair of Te Uhi a Mataora, Derek ensures that practicing tā moko artists are aware of what is happening nationally and internationally with the art form.
“Over the years, the collective has built an integral relationship with Toi Māori Aotearoa. It is commonplace to see general manager Garry Nicholas and operations manager Tamahou Temara arrive in the Tairāwhiti to attend the meetings,” says Derek. “But the relationship extends far beyond an annual meeting – we work collaboratively to ensure tā moko remains strong for future generations.”
It is with this in mind that the public forum has a part to play. By opening the doors to the community, tā moko has become a natural way for people to express their cultural identity and sense of belonging to something greater than themselves.
Derek coordinates the visiting artists, and provides the venue and means to do what they do in an environment with likeminded people. This year he delivered a professorial lecture as part of the wānanga which addressed the past, present and future of tā moko.
The lecture was supported by a gallery full of past and present students, colleagues and interested community members. He also invited visiting artists and former Toihoukura students, Thomas Clark and Raniera McGrath, to give their perspectives on how tā moko is developing. Garry Nicholas rounded off a very interesting evening with his views on how organisations such as Toi Māori Aotearoa can best support the different areas of tā moko, and Māori art in general.
The week-long wānanga attracts many people to Toihoukura’s Maia Gallery – some to watch, others to be inspired, and some to add to their growing collection of tā moko imagery.