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Image: ‘Kai Paraoa’ hiapo artwork by Cora-Allan, winner of Campbell Smith Memorial People's Choice Award for the National Contemporary Art Award 2023.

Artwork made using traditional Niuean techniques and materials has won the prestigious Campbell Smith Memorial People's Choice Award for the National Contemporary Art Award 2023 at Hamilton’s Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. 

Attracting the most votes from members of the public, ‘Kai Paraoa’ is a hiapo work (tapa/barkcloth painting) by visual artist Cora-Allan, who is of Maaori (Ngaapuhi, Ngaatitumutumu) and Niue (Alofi, Liku) descent.  

“This is amazing news!” said Cora-Allan when informed of her win. “I am currently finishing a year of full immersion in te reo Maaori at Te Wananga o Takiura and this artwork reflects what I have learnt during my time. It is a wonderful marker to celebrate our reo and how proud I am to be Maaori.” 

The title of Cora-Allan’s winning work refers to the kiiwaha (saying) “kai paraaoa” which can be translated as “piece of cake” in reference to something being easy.

Cora-Allan has spent recent years focussed on efforts to reawaken the Niuean art form of hiapo. Hiapo is handcrafted through a traditional process where water-soaked bark is beaten with a wooden hand tool to expand its size and create a canvas for painting with whenua (earth) pigment.

“Congratulations to Cora-Allan. Winning the People’s Choice Award is a real honour and I am delighted that Cora-Allen has won with this beautiful work,” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts, Waikato Museum.

The Campbell Smith Memorial People’s Choice Award is sponsored by the family of Campbell Smith (1925-2015), an artist, poet, playwright and former Waikato Museum Director. It includes a cash prize of $250.

“We are grateful to the family of Campbell Smith for continuing to sponsor this annual prize in the National Contemporary Art Award,” said Liz Cotton.

At the opening of the exhibition in July, artist Tawhai Rickard was announced as the winner of the $20,000 National Contemporary Art Award for his installation titled ‘Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant’.

The guest judge for 2023, highly respected arts curator Melanie Oliver, adhered to a blind-judging process to choose the winning work from a pool of 41 finalists, all of which are on display until 12 November in a free exhibition at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato.

“The astonishing number of entries this year has resulted in an exhibition which showcases the high calibre of our contemporary arts sector. Ngaa mihi nui to all entrants, to this year’s judge Melanie Oliver, and congratulations again to all our finalists and award winners” said Cotton.

The award attracted an unprecedented volume of entries, with more than 420 works submitted by Aotearoa New Zealand artists based here and overseas. Leading New Zealand law firm Tompkins Wake is the principal sponsor and has supported the competition since 2014. 

Click here  for more information on the National Contemporary Art Awards

National Contemporary Art Award winners 
  • 2023 National Contemporary Art Award, $20,000 prize sponsored by Tompkins Wake
  • Tawhai Rickard for Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant (reclaimed wood, enamel/acrylic paint).
  • 2023 Runner Up and winner of the $7,500 Hugo Charitable Trust Award Sung Hwan Bobby Park for BTM 조상 초상화 Ancestor Portrait (digital photograph). 
  • 2023 Friends of Waikato Museum $1,000 Merit Award winner
  • Hannah Ireland for Stained Cheery Wine (watercolour, ink and acrylic on found window).
  • 2023 Random Art Group $1,000 Merit Award winner
  • Sara (Hera) Tautuku Orme for Darling, Tēnei Au (photograph).
  • 2023 Campbell Smith Memorial People’s Choice Award winner:
  • Cora-Allan for Kai Paraoa (whenua (pukepoto and karangahape blush) on hiapo).

Te reo Maaori: 
For te reo Maaori, Hamilton City Council and its facilities uses double vowels (uu) in place of vowels with a macron (ū) to represent a long vowel sound. This spelling approach is the preference of tangata whenua in Hamilton Kirikiriroa and Waikato iwi for te reo Maaori words. 


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