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Toihoukura students recognised with scholarships

December 5, 2022

Bridy Rihari-Lundon (Ngapuhi) received the Ruanuku Award, which is awarded each year to the top all round student at Toihoukura, the School of Māori Visual Arts at EIT | Te Pūkenga Tairāwhiti.

Seven students at Toihoukura, the School of Māori Visual Arts at EIT | Te Pūkenga Tairāwhiti, have had their efforts rewarded with scholarships from arts patron and educator Dr Jack Richards.

Professor Richards has been sponsoring scholarships for Toihoukura students for more than 25 years after being inspired by a Toihoukura exhibition. The scholarships were established to ensure that talented, budding Māori artists had the opportunity to further develop their artistic talents.

At a ceremony at Toihoukura recently, Bridy Rihari-Lundon (Ngapuhi, Waikato Tainui) received the Ruanuku Award, which is awarded each year to the top all round student at Toihoukura. The Ruanuku is a final year undergraduate art student who performs at a high level across a range of requirements. As part of award, two pieces of Bridy’s work have been selected by the Tairāwhiti Museum and purchased, through the support of Professor Jack Richards, for the Tairāwhiti Museum permanent Māori arts collection.

Six other students were awarded The Dr Jack Richard Award for 2022. They are Year 1 students, Avaiki Peautolu and Rene McDonald; and Year 2 students Kalani Tikitiki-Houkamau, Taylor Delamare Robson, Makuira Cook and Danaan Beatson.

Toihoukura Senior Lecturer Erena Koopu says the scholarships are given to students of all levels and to those that exemplify Toihoukura values throughout the year.

“It is pretty awesome that Dr Richards has supported our students over so many years.”

Erena says that, in particular, the quality of the Year 3 students this year was “probably one of the best we’ve had for a very long time”.

“They’re an amazing bunch of students. And I think the best part about them is that the quality of work that they were able to produce this year. The end of year show was a very high quality show.”

Erena says that Bridy was a deserving recipient of the Ruanuku Award as, among a talented group of students, she stood out.

“There’s a whole lot of things we look at in terms of the different attributes, including leadership qualities and community involvement.”

Twenty-two year old Bridy, who is originally from Huntly in Waikato, only developed an interest in art in her last year of school. She was encouraged to enrol in the Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts at Toihoukura and has not looked back since.

“I only had one year’s experience when I went to Toihoukura, so I was still kind of new to the whole art world and the lens of an artist and using a paintbrush.”

“For me, Toihoukura is not just about art, it’s the whole energy. It’s the environment, which is family-orientated, welcoming and safe.”

Now in her third and final year, it has been an eventful year for Bridy, as not only has she received the Ruanuku Award, but she also received a grant from Creative New Zealand to attend an Indigenous arts gathering in Vancouver, Canada in June.

“Indigenous artists from all around the world came together for a week, created art and talked about our own stories, our struggles and our processes to make art. It was so cool, and I learnt so much.”

Bridy is passionate about portraying traditional Māori histories using paint and the focus of herworks is whenua, whakapapa, te ao Māori and all that it entails. Bridy believes this is the strongest source of inspiration to her creative expressions and says her art and her culture are tightly connected.

“It’s all I know!”

Winning the award for Bridy was a humbling experience, but one that she wants to share with her classmates.

“I’m so lucky. I feel I’m calm about the award, and it feels good. I’m just humbled. Although I was the one that received the scholarship, that doesn’t make me higher than my friends.”

As for the future, Bridy plans to continue her postgraduate studies at Toihoukura and then travel.

“One of my main goals in life is to travel, but I reckon that having an Honours or Masters just gives so much more time to network and connect and travel and be able to exhibit around the world as well.”