Whirikoka kaiako and kapa haka legend Tangiwai Ria has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year honours.
Tangiwai received the honour for services to Māori performing arts and the community.
She is a life member of Te Matatini and led the Waihirere team for three decades, winning national titles in 1988, 1998 and 2002. She has also led kapa haka groups performing around the world.
Tangiwai – who teaches the Certificate in Tikanga Marae programme - says the honours are something “which seem to belong in another time”.
“I’m not sure people understand it anymore. I thought to myself, ‘I have got to feel fantastic about this but I’m not sure what it means’. It made me sit down and consider the life that I have lived and that’s been awesome and really worthwhile. I’m very proud and my friends and family certainly are. I’ve had people come up to me and bow and we laugh.”
Along with her involvement in teaching at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and kapa haka, Tangiwai was Chair of the Trustees for Parihimanihi Marae in Waihīrere near Gisborne from 2000 to 2015. She supervised major renovation projects for the primary buildings on the marae and provided oversight in the development and implementation of policies for the revitalisation of language and protocols through facilitating wānanga.
She mentors the Eco-Warriors, a group of Māori youth from Waihīrere engaging in the environmental preservation and restoration of the Waihīrere Domain.
Tangiwai was also among the first cohort of tauira to graduate from the He Waka Hiringa programme and says that’s the only qualification she’s ever had.
“Because I’ve been so busy, the community has been my university.”