Click here to listen to an interview between RNZ and Rawiri about the award.
Please find below the speech in honour of Rawiri:
Actor Rawiri Paratene was born in the Hokianga of Ngapuhi descent. Like many other Maori in rural Northland, his family shifted to Auckland in search of work and new opportunities.
Rawiri grew up as an inquisitive, quick learner. He was meticulously observant of human character and behaviour, with a sharp wit and mastery of English.
From those early years he was drawn to and grew strength from other young leaders of the 70’s giving voice to aspirations of contemporary Maori art, culture and creativity.
He graduated from the New Zealand School of Drama in the 70’s. During this time he was appointed President of the Wellington Chapter of Nga Tama Toa.
However it was television that transported Rawiri into every New Zealand home. Shows like ‘Play School’, ‘Joe and Koro’ and character roles in the historical series that emerged in the mid seventies.
The rise of Maori playwrights, scriptwriters and novelists created the perfect material for Maori actors. That writing fed his passion for the stage and a nurtured a growing audience for Maori theatre.
Maori activism and political pressure for more Maori content on radio, television and in film brought even more change. Maori were increasingly finding work in New Zealand radio, television and film.
But it was in front of the camera where Rawiri held centre spot. In quick succession, roles in ‘Whale Rider,’ ‘What becomes of the Broken Hearted’ and ‘Insatiable Moon’ created a stellar period for his array of character portrayal. He was perfect for ‘strong, deep’ Maori characters, each with a redeeming spirit.
Then in 2011, following a residency at the Globe Theatre in London, he set upon his most ambitious plan. As part of the worldwide recognition of 450th Anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, Rawiri would present Troilis and Cresida.
It would be the opening show of performances from many countries and in many languages. But Rawiri’s production would be in Māori, with a Māori cast, in full Māori ceremonial costumes. It was a performed in 2012 to resounding acclamation.
Flushed with the success of achieving that monumental production, he then accepted a role in the cast of the Globe’s 2013 touring show of Hamlet that played in 196 countries.
This year 2016 he was in the cast of Purapurawhetu. A play by Briar Grace Smith first performed in 2010 but this time in Māori language. His love of language, commitment to Māori, New Zealand and humanity are his outstanding features.
Tonight the Toi Maori artists honour Rawiri for his achievements and contributions to the wealth of contemporary Māori arts, culture and creativity.