Toi Māori Aotearoa was established in 1996 as a Charitable Trust. The Trust emerged from the need for a collective Māori artists’ forum to foster the development of Māori art and support the national Māori art form committees.
The settlors of the Toi Māori Aotearoa Charitable Trust were Hirini Moko Mead, Emily Rangitiaria Schuster, Trevor Horowaewae Maxwell, Patricia Grace, Kataraina Piri, Sandy Adsett, Henry Bennet and Hohepa Mason. The objectives of the Trust were to:
The original Toi Māori Aotearoa Kaitiaki (Trustees), Hirini Moko Mead, Emily Rangitiaria Schuster, Waana Morrell Davis, Trevor Horowaewae Maxwell, Tīmoti Kāretu, Georgina Kirby and Derek Fox, developed a strategic plan for the organisation with the following objectives:
Toi Māori Aotearoa was publicly launched at the opening of the exhibition, Patua: Māori Arts in Action, curated by Sandy Adsett at City Gallery Wellington as part of Te Toka-a-Toi, the 1996 International Festival of the Arts.
Since 1996 Toi Māori Aotearoa has focussed on the development of Māori artists, Māori artist collectives and art forms, and initiated many significant events to promote Māori art in New Zealand and internationally.
Toi Māori continues to advocate for increased support for Māori art from the government to achieve the aspirations of iwi Māori as guaranteed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi.