National | Award

Ihumātao rep' awarded Order of Merit

Qiane May Matata-Sipu is credited with attracting attention to the plight of those trying to save their ancestral home at Ihumātao. Photo / Jason Oxenham / NZME

Distinguished artist and familiar face of the SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) movement at Ihumātao, Qiane May Matata-Sipu has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM), in recognition of her achievements in the arts.

A photographer, journalist and social activist, Matata-Sipu (Te Wai-o-hua, Waikato-Tainui) is credited with exploring themes of identity, heritage, and social justice through her work, provoking thought and inspiring dialogue.

NUKU, a book and multimedia series profiling 100 "kickass indigenous wahine" is among the myriad of recent projects from the 37-year-old, met with critical acclaim.

As a founding member of the SOUL movement, Matata-Sipu also played a prominent role in advocating for the protection of whenua at Ihumātao and returning it to the mana whenua.

A series of powerful images documenting life at the site were often credited with attracting mainstream media attention to the plight of those trying to save their ancestral home.

A social documentary series about the campaign to protect the whenua from development earned her the esteemed 2018 New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year award.

Matata-Sipu has also been actively involved in Māori and Pacific media, NUKU is part of advocating for the inclusion and recognition of indigenous women's stories, Matata-Sipu told RNZ.

"When we look at mainstream and we look at issues around Waitangi Day or around Matariki or around te reo, we're often talking to European men... I was sick of that,"

Whilst still involved in discussions about the future of Ihumātao, Matata-Sipu has gone on to become a podcaster and launch her own creative agency 'grounded in Indigenous values'.

'our team are all about disrupting the mainstream approach to amplify the good stuff organisations are doing in the world.' she said at launch of the eponymously named 'Qiane'.

The agency pledges to only work with groups 'making awesome impact socially or environmentally'.

In awarding the MNZM Matata-Sipu was praised for her work as a 'testament to the transformative power of art and the importance of indigenous representation' in shaping a more inclusive society.

Public Interest Journalism