Internationally acclaimed director Taika Waititi will be one of the award winners at the World Class New Zealand Celebration in New York on November 15th.
The event, hosted by Kea and Auckland University of Technology (AUT), celebrates globally influential Kiwis who are making an impact on the world stage and specifically in the United States, while raising funds for AUT’s Internz programme which provides scholarships for Kiwi students to complete internships in the US.
Other award recipients include Nancy Gilbert, Founder of the Wahine Toa project, and AUT alumnus Toiroa Williams.
The first World Class New Zealand Award to be presented outside of New Zealand, Taika will receive the Award in honour of his achievements in film and his commitment to New Zealand and our culture.
Ngapera Riley, Global Director for Kea, said New Zealand should be particularly proud of the authenticity of Taika’s storytelling, which connect people from around the world with New Zealand and our identity.
“Taika uses comedy and storytelling to shine a positive light on Māori culture, in a way that doesn’t gloss over real issues or get weighed down by them.”
Taika is also being acknowledged for the international success of his latest film, Marvel blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok - one of Marvel Studio’s biggest commercial and cultural successes.
Nancy Gilbert will receive a Friend of New Zealand award for her work with the Wahine Toa project, which travels New Zealand interviewing Māori women who are making an impact in their communities.
A US native, Nancy lived in New Zealand from 2015 to 2017 with her husband Mark Gilbert, the former US ambassador to New Zealand.
While living in New Zealand, Nancy was touched by the depth and beauty of Māori culture and founded the Wahine Toa project to celebrate Māori women and tell their stories.
AUT Internz provides scholarships for AUT graduates to intern in the US and build global connections.
AUT Chancellor John Maasland said the AUT Internz programme provided once in a lifetime opportunities for students.
“In the past students have interned with Apple, Dropbox, FCB, Facebook and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Working for such well known and influential companies is a huge opportunity for Kiwi graduates.”
AUT will be presenting alumnus Toiroa Williams with an AUT Internz Ambassador award for the impact he has made through his internship with the Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah.
Toiroa introduced Te Whare Tapa Wha, a Māori holistic health and wellness philosophy, to the strategic plan for Sundance’s Native American and Indigenous Program.
The Sundance Institute was highly impressed by Toiroa’s contributions and enthusiasm for his internship and offered him a full-time position.
The event will also feature a number of high-flying Kiwis and World Class New Zealanders.
Sarah Robb O’Hagan, current CEO of Fly Wheel and former President of Gatorade and Equinox, will be MC for the evening while the internationally acclaimed soprano Marie Te Hapuku will perform.
Kiwi celebrity chef Anthony Hoy Fong, who has designed menus for the White House, is designing the menu, which will feature New Zealand food and wine.
A silent auction, featuring luxury experiences and artwork by New Zealand artists such as Max Gimblett, will also be held on the night to fundraise for the AUT Internz programme.
Ngapera Riley said Kea is excited to take the World Class awards to New York and has aspired to take the awards overseas for some time.
“Our mission is to create a borderless nation of Kiwis and Friends of NZ around the world. We can’t wait to celebrate the outstanding achievements of Taika, Nancy and Toiroa with other World Class New Zealanders and supporters of New Zealand.”
Previous World Class New Zealand Award winners include Sir Peter Jackson, Lady Fran Walsh, Helen Clark, Victoria Ransom and Craig Nevill-Manning.