Tairawhiti Polytechnic Maori Arts Program

Toihoukura, the school of Māori Visual Arts, was established in 1990 by Ivan Ehau under Tairawhiti Polytechnic.

Derek Lardelli, a noted Tā Moko artist, printmaker and sculptor, joined the programme as a senior tutor in 1992. Sadly, Ivan died that same year, and his position was filled by renowned kowhaiwhai artist, Sandy Adsett. Painter, Steve Gibbs, was appointed in 1994. Together this teaching team developed a dynamic foundation programme, followed by an Advanced Diploma and, in January 2007, a Bachelor in Māori Visual Arts was accredited and implemented.

While the department built its kaupapa from the strong arts traditions of Te Tairawhiti, the students throughout Toihoukura's history have been an amalgamation of iwi from across the country. Derek Lardelli and Steve Gibbs remained at the heart of the teaching team when in 2002 Sandy Adsett moved to Hastings to work within his own tribal area of Ngāti Kahungunu.

Christina (Tina) Hurihia Wirihana, the most recently appointed tutor, is a specialist in fibre and weaving, who has had an involvement with Toihoukura over many years. 
Toihoukura provides a nurturing environment based on manaakitanga (care and protection), and whanaungatanga (family foundation) within which the students develop their individual artistic practice.

The focus of Toihoukura is to ensure the continuing development of Art forms that are specifically Māori. This is promoted through the development of, and participation in an arts ‘wānanga' learning environment that encourages the personal and professional development of every student.

The kaupapa of the programmes delivered within the department have been developed in direct response to the continuing need to strengthen Māori Art within a contemporary Māori context.

Cultural concepts and technical knowledge acquired through practical work and experience is analysed through wānanga learning. Students are empowered to develop their own direction, vision and independence with regard to cultural expectations and conditions.