31 Aug 2020
CNZM QSO Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata,
1942 – 2020.
Kauria atu koe ki te Moana nui a Kiwa
ki te kainga tuturu o Ngāi Tātou
ki Hawaiki nui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaaiki pāmamao.
Kei reira ngā tīpuna e tatari ana mōu.
Moe mai rā e te Huiakaimanawa o Ngāti Porou, o Rangitukia
Creative New Zealand wishes to acknowledge the passing of the wonderfully formidable, Keri Kaa. Keri gave a lifetime of service to education, te reo Māori and the arts and alongside her highly talented (and often feared) brother Wii Kuki Kaa shaped many generations of teachers, actors, writers, dancers and orators in the arts sector.
Keri had a long association with the Arts Council, Te Waka Toi, the National Library, Toi Whakaari National Drama School, DANZ, Wellington College of Education/Te Whanau o Ako Pai ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, Taki Rua Theatre, New Zealand Film Commission, Ministry of Culture and Heritage, Tapu Te Ranga Marae, Te Upoko o Te Ika Māori Radio, Te Wānanga o Raukawa and more.
Keri was politically astute and advocated for Womens’ rights, the retention of Māori land and language and education equality, as such she was often called upon to speak to Parliamentary Select Committees and international advisory groups.
“When Keri Kaa left Wellington to return home it was clear to us that she was taking home with her an enormous basket of knowledge,” says Stephen Wainwright, Creative New Zealand Chief Executive.
“Keri’s staunch advocacy of Te Ao Māori and Mātauranga were complemented by a strong commitment to entities that supported Māori and bicultural aspiration including the National Library, Toi Whakaari, the Arts Council and Taki Rua Theatre as it was then.”
Our colleague Nonnita Rees recalls Keri as an educator and an artist:
At Creative New Zealand she was a practical pioneer in shaping and sharing the contemporary art of Aotearoa. She worked across disciplines.
Just one example was the landmark transTasman dance event she led with Arts Council member Jan Bolwell at Otaki in 1990. Te Ao Hurihuri invited New Zealand and Australian dance leaders to open their practice and dialogue to embrace ancestral indigenous dance in a changing world. Elders and contemporary challengers from both countries were invited.
It was no ordinary 10-day workshop. There was six months intensive preparation and joint decision making with tangata whenua. Keri went to Sydney and told the Australia Council that their delegation had to comprise 50 per cent aboriginal dancer participation or not to come...All participants (Australians and New Zealanders - Maori and paheka) were introduced to the kawa for Te Ao Hurihuri at Ako Pai ( Keri’s associated marae at Wellington Teachers College) before the arrival at Otaki.
The ten days and nights in the marae, halls and at Rangiatea church were extraordinary and life changing for many.
Keri Kaa was formidable, she served the Arts and served people.
In 2016 Keri Kaa was awarded a Te Waka Toi Tā Kingi Ihaka award in recognition of a lifetime contribution to Ngā Toi Māori and strengthening Māori culture.