Kei aku rangatira, kei aku nui, tena koutou katoa.
E Te Waka Toi, e Te Toi Aotearoa, me nga kaimahi toi Maori, me nga Whanau, tena koutou katoa.
Tenei au ka mihi, ka aroha ki te wehenga o te hunga kua ngaro, tae ake ki a Cliff Whiting.
Tatau te hunga ora, koutou, ka whiwhi tohu i te po nei, ka nui rawa aku mihi.
It’s a privilege to be invited to join you all in celebrating nga toi Māori this evening – and to speak to an audience that shares my passion for the arts.
To me, cultural expression – in all its forms – is where we have the big conversations about what it is to be human, what connects us to the past, what links us together, and what we fear, dream and hope. It’s a profoundly important legacy for future generations.
So when I became Governor-General almost a year ago, I took the opportunity to pledge my support for the arts of Aotearoa.
Creative New Zealand took me up on that promise and a few months later I found myself with Lisa Reihana in a ceremonial gondola in Venice, on our way to open her astonishing exhibition in the New Zealand Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
It was a magical experience, and I reflected on the journey of toi Māori from its heart in the marae of Aotearoa, to its powerful contemporary presence here and internationally.
Te Waka Toi Awards have contributed to that journey, by acknowledging the unique cultural context of toi Māori, by recognising the cultural legacy of artists across many art forms, and by fostering talent in emerging practitioners.
I applaud the vision of the people who were there at the genesis of these Awards – including the late Michael Volkerling and my current Government House Kaumatua, Piri Sciascia. Thank you to those Council members and staff who have worked over more than thirty years to develop and extend that vision.
Congratulations to all the winners this evening. We appreciate the contribution you have made to the mana of the arts of Aotearoa.
And in conclusion, we have the saying, exemplified here tonight –
No reira, ina te korero, he toi whakairo, he mana tangata.