For his expansive services to Māori art, EIT Tairāwhiti Professor Sir Derek Lardelli has been honoured with a knighthood.
Sir Derek is regarded as one of New Zealand’s finest tā moko artists, but his work goes beyond traditional visual art.
Of Ngati Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngati Konohi and Ngai Te Aweawe descent, he is also a carver, kapa haka performer, composer, graphic designer, and researcher of whakapapa, tribal history and kaikorero.
He was mentored and taught by many kaumatua of Tairāwhiti, so oral traditions have influenced his work and his life’s passions.
He coached and led the Whāngārā-Mai-Tawhiti Cultural Group to twice become supreme winner at the national kapa haka championships.
With an educational background in teaching, fine arts and classical Māori literature, Derek was the founding tutor, and is principal tutor and Professor at Toihoukura, EIT’s School of Maori Visual Arts, at the Tairāwhiti campus.
EIT Chief Executive Chris Collins said it was a very special occasion to be part of EIT Professor Sir Derek’s Lardelli’s investiture at Whāngārā Marae last Saturday.
“Whānau, dignitaries and friends celebrated his enormous contribution to so many spheres of activity, from art, to sport, to museums, to kapa haka and to the wider community, both here in New Zealand, and internationally.
“Toihoukura, EIT’s School of Māori Visual Arts, has built a national and international reputation that is second to none, and it’s Sir Derek’s leadership, vision, deep passion and commitment, along with the team he has built around him, that has made Toihoukura what it is today, deeply influencing many generations of young Māori artists.
“Arise Sir Derek” – a well-earned honour,” said Mr Collins. Sir Derek was knighted by the Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.
EIT Tairāwhiti Executive Director Tracey Tangihaere says Sir Derek’s leadership at Toihoukura has had an immense impact on encouraging Māori contribution to art.
“His continued service over the past 30 years to performing arts has lifted the standard of kapa haka and performing arts not only in Tairāwhiti, but nationally. Also, his encouragement to young people to find their identity and culture within all arts forms makes him a role model for many educators.”
EIT Associate Professor and long-time friend of Sir Derek, Steve Gibbs attended the ceremony and said it was a fantastic occasion.
“Derek for us is mentor, colleague and a visionary leader. He has helped us to realise our creative potential as mentors to our respective communities.”
“His guidance and never-ending support for us as we negotiate that challenging space of working within our whanau and iwi,” he said.
Sir Derek has exhibited his work around the world. Among the huge list of notable work, he designed the fern motif for the uniform for New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games team; created background images to feature behind the original Air New Zealand koru logo and was the first recipient of a new artist-in-residence programme near the Gallipoli peninsula. Derek can also be credited with Kapa-o-pango, the new All Black haka.
He received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2004 and in 2008 was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (now upgraded).
As an artist and designer, he has produced major art components for high profile installations such as the Maui sculptures on his tribal mountain, Hikurangi.
He has produced logos for several well-known companies, including Sealord and Water Safety New Zealand.
Other examples of his cultural design components are the award winning Oneroa Walkway and the C Company 28th Māori Battalion Memorial House in Gisborne.
His design input is prominent in several building structures and office areas nationwide including the Human Rights Commission office in Wellington, the Awarua Gisborne District Council building and the HB Williams Memorial Library. His work was featured in the design of the interior of the Gisborne Airport which recently won a New Zealand architecture award.
His work can also be seen internationally in places such as the New Zealand Embassy in Cairo and the Cook Islands Embassy.
Derek lives in Gisborne with his wife Rose and his adult children are also actively involved in many facets of Te Ao Māori, supporting Derek to continue to work as a practicing artist, leader, teacher and advocate for mātauranga Maori.