Derek Lardelli ONZM, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s finest tā moko artists, will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Waikato at its graduation ceremony on Friday 3 May 2019.
Of Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Konohi and Ngai Te Aweawe descent, Derek has earned an international reputation for his knowledge of tā moko and its spiritual significance, working to retain and develop the rituals, karakia and oral histories associated with tā moko. Each moko he creates is carefully researched to reflect the whakapapa, history and particular interests of the person receiving it. He is also a painter, carver, kapahaka performer, composer, graphic designer and exceptional orator.
Based in Gisborne, Derek is founding principal tutor at Toihoukura, School of Māori Visual Arts at the Eastern Institute of Technology’s Tairāwhiti campus where he has developed a suite of programmes across a range of Māori visual arts. With a Master of Fine Arts and a Diploma of Teaching, Derek has consistently focused on the need to improve Māori educational outcomes using art as a medium. In 2011, in recognition of his influence in New Zealand and overseas, he was awarded the title Professor/Ahorangi.
Derek’s art is often very public, though many people may not be aware of its reach. For example, he was the commissioning artist for the Maui sculptures that stand on his tribal mountain Hikurangi. He designed the fern motif for our Olympic and Commonwealth games teams’ uniforms and created the background images to feature behind the Air New Zealand koru logo. He can also be credited with Kapa-o-pango, the All Black haka, and acts as the team’s cultural adviser.
In 2004 Derek received a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate award; he was the inaugural Gallipoli artist-in-residence in 2006, and was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2008.
Derek has always been generous with his knowledge, heading tā moko delegations at Pacific Arts Festivals for more than 20 years, and leading tā moko wānanga in Gisborne, at Te Papa, Māori arts markets and city arts festivals. Since 1995 he has been a performer and leader of Whāngārā mai Tawhiti Kapa Haka, winning two national kapahaka titles.
In 2017, Derek was commissioned by Te Papa to create a significant artwork for the Gisborne iwi Ko Rongowhakaata: The story of light and shadow exhibition. His piece, Nga Manu a Rongo will become part of the museum’s permanent collection.
As part of his ongoing drive for Māori art and culture to have a public presence, Derek has extended his skill set to include cultural design elements for public buildings, particularly in the Gisborne area. His award-winning designs can be seen in the Māori Land Court, the police station, at Gisborne Girls High School and the Māori Battalion C Company building, and others. He has also been highly acclaimed for the design and cultural elements he has introduced to the beachfront walkway from Waikanae to Midway Beach in Gisborne and sees this as a way of incorporating and naturalising Te Ao Māori into everyday life.
At the 2018 Matariki Awards, Derek was a joint winner of Te Waipuna-ā-Rangi Award for Arts and Entertainment, for his contributions to Māori kapa haka, tā moko artistry, the revival of Māori art and its spiritual significance.
An Honorary Doctorate is the most prestigious award that the University of Waikato can bestow, recognising a significant contribution to the University, the Waikato region and the wider New Zealand community. Derek Lardelli's Honorary Doctorate will be conferred at the graduation ceremony at Te Kohinga Mārama Marae, on Friday 3 May 2019.