Our Team

Tama Waipara

Ruapani, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou
Chief Executive and Founding Artistic Director
Tama brings his extensive knowledge and expertise to imagining and designing the world-class creative experiences within the festival. It’s safe to say he’s the man for this job. With 8 years’ experience at the Auckland Arts Festival as Senior Programme Manager and Creative Associate and formerly Programme Leader Māori at Auckland Council (Arts and Culture). He’s also an award-winning musician, composer and performer, the Co-Chair of SOUNZ - Centre for New Zealand Music and a Board member of Te Hau ki Tūranga Governance Group.

Edwina Ashwell

Ngati Porou, Ngati Awa
Director of Business and Marketing
Eddie brings 20 years’ experience in marketing, communications and project management to her role, keeping our marketing on-point and Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival financially sustainable into the future - basically doing the do to be a great ancestor. She likes ducks - not cows apparently.

Rebecca Knox

Technical Director
Rebecca is an experienced technical and production manager who’s been involved in events and festivals in New Zealand and abroad for the past 17 years, including Splore Festival, Bright Nights, Aotearoa Music Awards, London Olympics 2012, the Taste of Auckland and many more. Being a master of many roles across production, logistics, site safety, stage management and wrangling volunteers, she’s responsible for making the magic happen at Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival achieving the ‘wow factor’ at our venues, sites and events.

Theresa Wawatai-Smith

Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Ngāti Konohi, Ngāti Porou
Operations Manager
Born and bred in her village of Waihīrere, Theresa has gone on to clock up over 30-years of administration and operational experience working in both the public and private sectors. In between, she and hubby managed to raise two adult children, and she now has an obsession with her two moko - boys, soon to be joined by a sister. After returning to Tūranga in 2010, Theresa spent 8 years with Toihoukura School of Māori Arts based at EIT, as Head of School before a 2 year stint with Hauora Tairāwhiti. The new adventure with Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival is like ‘coming home’ to a space that is vibrant, ever-changing and extremely challenging but satisfying.

Jordan Walker

Ngāti Kahungunu, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Te Rangi
Line Producer
Jordan Walker is a Line Producer for Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival - they have 10 years worth of experience working in the Festival and Event industry. They have worked with the Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival since 2019, where they started as a Production Assistant. In 2020, they received a Māori Arts Internship with Toi Māori Aotearoa which aligned them to working for TTAF as a Producer Intern. Jordan is lucky to work with many projects for the Festival, including Te Ara i Whiti where they liaise with artists and facilitate wānanga and regular hui with the artists and our Creative Team. Jordan is currently completing research as a Social Anthropologist as part of their Masters in the Arts through Massey University. Last year they starred in a short film by Alesha Ahdar, He Takatāpui Ahau, and hold a large interest in the arts, including visual arts.

Léo Garcia

Line Producer
Léo is a creative, experienced in project management. Born an hour out of Bordeaux (France) on the Atlantic Coast, after completing a Masters Degree in Communications & Marketing, he worked for the cultural division of Bordeaux's Council, and since moving to Aotearoa, has worked with Splore Festival, and Fresh Concept. He likes to use his skills to deliver cultural and sustainable projects for the community, and when he's not busy managing projects for Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival, he enjoys woodworking and surfing.
Mel's headshot

Melanie Tangaere-Baldwin

Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine
Cultural Activator and Guest Curator of Te Ara i Whiti
Melanie grew up living in Murupara, Francistown (Botswana) and Auckland. Mel is a mean card player, loves country music, and has loved Jughead Jones since she was a kid. She has two beautiful, and hilarious, children. Mel especially loves making stuff. Toi Māori was where she found her voice and is her safe space. It allowed her to know who she is.

Samantha Booth

Ngāti Porou
Intern
Gizzy Girl Sam recently graduated from Massey University in Wellington with a Bachelor of Commercial Music and returned home in 2022 to be apart of the Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival whānau. Sam has had previous experience in the music industry through prominent New Zealand music events like Newtown Festival, Cuba Dupa Smokefree Rockquest, Smokefree Tangata Beats, To The Front Poneke, and Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival. She has joined our team as an intern and loves being a part of the festival.

Sukhman Perhar

Marketing Advisor
Sukhman has 9 years of social media marketing and customer service experience, working for start-ups, government agencies and within the tech industry in Canada, England, and New Zealand. She joined the festival after moving to Gisborne from Vancouver. She loves being a part of the Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival because it works on making the Arts accessible to everyone. When not glued to her phone, she's usually walking her dog at the beach!

Karen Cartwright

Ticketing Manager
Karen, born in the UK, now lives in West Auckland with her 16 year old son. Karen has an extensive background in administration, logistics and ticketing across a number of industries. Ticketing Manager for both the Auckland Arts Festival (6 years) and the New Zealand International Film Festival (3 years), Karen is the maestro of ticketing for Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival events. She has also worked in the music industry for the last six years supporting one of NZ’s biggest acts Sons of Zion.