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The History of Toi Iho

Sir Āpirana Ngata (Ngāti Porou) first raised the concept of a Māori mark of quality and authenticity) in 1936, and the idea was proposed again in 1964 by the New Zealand Māori Council.

In 1997 Te Waka Toi Chair Elizabeth Ellis and the Board began the project in earnest.Led by the eminent Tohunga Whakairo/master carver Dr Paki Harrison, Te Waka Toi worked with a team of established Māori artists including Erenora Hetet, Manos Nathan, Hirini Melbourne, Kereti Rautangata and Robert Jahnke on the design of the Tohu (the Mark). Margaret Te Hiko was the Te Waka Toi Creative NZ Administrator of Toi Iho in those early days and Muriwai Ihakara was the Te Waka Toi Creative NZ Māori Manager.

2001 – The Toi Iho, Te Waka Toi, Design Team

Over the next five years, there were a series of hui with artists and communities across Aotearoa. Consultation began with a presentation by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders about the development of their indigenous Mark. As a result of gatherings and wananga, Te Waka Toi gained the approval and confidence of Māori to create Toi Iho as the trademark of quality and authenticity for Māori arts, and it was registered as a legal trademark. 

The Toi Iho trademark was launched at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki in February 2002 and was managed by Creative NZ until 2009 when they decided to remove funding.

Toi Iho Whanau
Standing: Matire Ropiha, Ata Te Kanawa, Muriwai Ihakara, Kereti Rautangata, Riki Moeau, Dr Paki Harrison, Ata Papa, Professor Robert Jahnke, Toby Mills, Jacob Scott, Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Manos Nathan
Seated: Elizabeth Kerr, Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, Elizabeth Ellis, Hinewai Harrison, Margaret Te Hiko, Moana Maniapoto.

Oct 2009 – Hui of Toi Iho after funding was disestablished and artists had been notified by Creative New Zealand.

In response a core group of Toi Iho supporters called Transition Toi Iho Foundation (TTIF) held meetings with Creative NZ and Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Maori Development) to discuss the future of Toi Iho.  After consultation in 2000, Te Waka Toi, the original Te Waka Toi design group and Māori communities had consulted widely with Iwi in 2000, and regarded Toi Iho as our cultural property, belonging to Māori.  The Creative New Zealand Council agreed with Te Waka Toi at the time.   We strongly disagreed with the decision to permanently disestablish Toi Iho and the registered artists, as Toi Iho did not belong to the Crown.

(L-R) Back row: Norm Heke, Suzanne Tamaki, Blain Te Rito, Gabrielle Belz, Gary Nicholas, Collen Urlich, Te Rongo Kirkwood, Professor Robert Jahnke, Manos Nathan, Carin Wilson, Jacob Scott, Maree Mills, Stacy Gordine, Chris Bailey
Front: Rakei Kingi, Wena Tait, Wendy Whitehead, Margaret Te Hiko, Elizabeth Ellis, Cherie Waititi, Ata Te Kanawa, Kahu Te Kanawa, Aroha Mead, Ngaahina Hohaia.

Oct 2010 – The determination to keep Toi Iho visible continues...

In 2010, TTIF participated in a hui at Te Herenga Waka Marae, Victoria University that was convened by Creative NZ calling for registrations of interest to manage and administer Toi Iho. No funding or resources were offered. The assembled artists and Creative NZ agreed that TTIF should take responsibility for Toi Iho. Limited funding for projects was granted by Te Puni Kokiri and other funding entities.  Toi Iho was therefore visible at festivals and in retail areas and Māori art markets.

In October 2010, TIKI – Toi Iho Kaitiaki Incorporated (a limited liability company) replaced TTIF as the legal entity and in 2013, the Toi Iho Charitable Trust was instituted in place of TIKI. In 2022, Toi Iho was formally registered as a charitable entity, and the following year received a grant from the Manatū Taonga, Ministry for Culture and Heritage to revitalise the brand.

Since 2009 the visibility and indeed viability of Toi Iho has remained increasingly important, especially with challenges from the digitisation of Māori art which has made non-Maori in particular copy and misuse our art forms. Despite this, national and international recognition of Toi Iho artists has remained high, with the trustees of the Toi Iho Charitable Trust continuing to champion our artists and work for the benefit of Toi Iho Maori art and Maori artists.

Toi Iho meeting: (L-R) Elizabeth Ellis, Carin Wilson, Aroha Mead, Margaret Te Hiko, Manos Nathan, Moana Maniapoto, Maui Solomon, Bob Jahnke.

Trustees of the Toi Iho Charitable Trust

Elizabeth Ellis. CNZM JP

Ngāi Tane, Te Whānau ā Takimoana, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kuta


Hemi MacGregor

Ngāti Rakaipaaka, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tūhoe

Ria Hall

Tauranga Moana, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Waikato

Kereama Taepa

Te Arawa, Te Ati Awa, Ngāti Whakaue

Ana Sciascia

Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Raukawa

Professor Robert Jahnke. ONZM

Ngāi Taharora, Te Whānau a Iritekura, Te Whānau a Rakairoa o Ngāti Porou

Moana Maniapoto. MNZM, LLB. Laureate AFNZ

Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa

Dr Sandy Adsett. MNZM, JP, MMVA

Ngāti Pahauwera, Ngāti Kahungunu

Associate members

Elizabeth Harte, Dr Arapata Hakiwai, Nigel Borell, Tim Melville, Ngahuia Harrison, Karl Chitham.

Championing the finest of Māori creativity, past, present and future. Championing the finest of Māori creativity, past, present and future. Championing the finest of Māori creativity, past, present and future. Championing the finest of Māori creativity, past, present and future.