A number of local Māori artists have been recognised at this year's Te Waka Toi Awards held in Rotorua tonight.

Among those recognised was the late Taupō born actress, writer and director Nancy Brunning who died earlier this month.

The star was awarded the Te Tohu Kē a Te Waka Toi award for significant, positive impact on the development and practice of Ngā Toi Māori.

Brunning was aware of the award before her death.

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Artists from around the country overwhelmingly supported the award with fellow actor Cliff Curtis saying "she held in her soul as artists love for humanity and for her people".

"She shared her love through her work and made a profound contribution that will live on. Nga Mihi Aroha ki a ia me tana whanau hoki."

Other award winners on the night was Te Arawa's Wetini Mitai-Ngatai, who was recognised for his outstanding contribution to kapa haka.

Mitai-Ngatai has performed throughout Rotorua for many groups and was awarded the national male leader title at Te Matatini a total of five times.

In 2002, Wetini founded Mitai Maori Village in Rotorua, a Māori cultural performance and tourism attraction at Fairy Springs.

Another Te Arawa award winner was Rim D Paul, who was recognised for his lifetime contribution to the Māori arts.

The 77-year-old Rim D Paul was an important choral leader and has spanned an high-quality career in Māori music.

Finally, Te Arawa's Lewis Gardiner was recognised for fufiling the legacy of Te Māori He Taonga Tuku Iho.

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Gardiner was regarded as one of the foremost Māori pounamu artists in the country and For almost 25 years Lewis has run his own greenstone studio in Rotorua that is regarded as one of the foremost design studios in the country.

Lewis frequently exhibits internationally as part of residencies and artist exchanges.

Te Waka Toi 2019 Award Recipients

Ngā Tohu Manu Pīrere - Recognising emerging Māori artists

Cian Gardner (Ngāpuhi) - Theatre: Writer, Producer, Performer

Ashley (Hine) Waitai-Dye (Ngāti Kuri) - Tārai Waka, Tā Moko

Te Tohu Toi Kē a te Waka Toi Making a Difference Award
Nancy Brunning (Ngāti Raukawa/Tūhoe) - Theatre: Actor, Writer, Director, Producer

Te Tohu Aroha mō Ngoi Kumeroa Pewhairangi - Award for strengthening te reo Rangatira
Derek Lardelli (Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Konohi (Ngai Te Riwai), Ngāti Kaipoho (Ngai Te Aweawe)) - Te Reo, Whaikōrero, Visual Arts, Haka, Tā Moko, Composer

Te Tohu Whakamānawa o Te Matatini - Recognising outstanding contribution to Kapa Haka
Wetini Mitai-Ngatai (Te Arawa, Te Whakatohea) - Kapa Haka

Ngā Tohu ā tā Kingi Ihaka - Recognising lifetime contribution award.
Maureen Robin Lander (Ngāpuhi_ - Multimedia artist, Installation, Rāranga and Academic
Rim D Paul (Te Arawa) - Music: Showbands, Choral
Sonia Armana Snowden (Ngāpuhi) - Rāranga, Whatu, Tukutuku
Allen Wihongi (Ngāpuhi) - Whakairo, Mixed-media
John Klaricich (Ngāpuhi) - Te Reo, Whaikōrero, Literature, photography

Te Tohu o Te Papa Tongarewa Rongomaraeora - outstanding contribution to Ngā Toi Māori
Kura Te Waru Rewiri (Ngāti Kahu, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Rangi) - Visual Arts, Academic, Educator

Te Māori Award: Recognising leadership in the development of the Te Māori exhibition
Ihakara (Kara) Puketapu (Te Atiawa)

Manaaki Taonga Award - Recognising the work of a Māori artist who fulfils the legacy of Te Māori 'He Taonga Tuku Iho'
Lewis Gardiner (Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa, Whanau a Apanui, Ngāi Tahu) - Whakairo

Te Tohu Aroha Mō Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu Supreme Award
Rex Homan (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Paoa, Te Atiawa) - Sculptor