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Derek Lardelli reckons his talents have combined to make him a jack of all trades in the art world.

But that's a massive undersell for one of the finest exponents of ta moko in the country who is also leader of national kapa haka champions Whangara mai Tawhiti, a composer, graphic designer, sculptor, tribal researcher and orator.

Ask him if he considers himself a renaissance man and he laughs.

"I'm a misfit. I've been lucky enough to try a few things and become master of none. No, actually I'm a master of misfittery. Art is in my bones. That's who I am."

But it's on skin where he's made his mark. Today he becomes an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday honours.

Click here for full list of honours

Over more than 20 years Lardelli has watched the growth of ta moko from an art form on the brink, to a practice every iwi is now capable of delivering, simply because people have re-learned it.

Today, he is the principal tutor at Toi Houkura, the Maori visual and performing school at Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne, where he trains the next generation of practitioners. His tribal affiliations are Ngati Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngati Kanohi and Ngati Kaipoho.

Lardelli is the man the All Blacks turned to when they wanted a haka of their own. When his Kapa o Pango was launched in 2005, its "breath of life" throat slashing gesture caused an uproar nationwide.

Composing the piece for a multi-cultural team who wanted to do things properly and leave behind something for those coming through the ranks spoke volumes about Maori renaissance on the wider community.

And if art is about ideas artists should always be pushing the boundaries, Lardelli said. "That's how you know culture is alive."