Featured in
Issue 200

Toioho ki Apiti: Master of Mãori Visual Arts

‘You have taught art within a history that is our own, with a language that is our own’

BY Matariki Williams in Fan Letter | 08 JAN 19

Robert Jahnke, founder of Toioho ki Apiti – Studies of Mãori Visual Arts, screengrab. Courtesy: Massey University and YouTube

‘He toi whakairo, he mana tangata.’ (Where there is artistic excellence, there is human dignity.) This whakataukı, this proverb, reflects what you, Toioho ki Apiti – Master of Mãori Visual Arts – have brought to the arts in New Zealand and the world. You are not a person; you are people. You are the people who your students brought with them when studying. You are the lecturers who fortified the mana of your students. Since your establishment in 1995 by the visionary Bob Jahnke, you have taught them art within a history that is our own, with a language that is our own. You made these connections with them and fed them into an arts sector that is lucky to have them.

The late artist and teacher Dr Cliff Whiting talked about Mãori art existing on a continuum, a river, asserting that wherever Mãori art or taonga Mãori was on the river, it was part of the river. Toioho ki Apiti, I am on the riverbank, I watch the river eddy and swirl, hit rapids and cascade down waterfalls. You are a tributary, feeding the river. Over time, you have supported Reweti Arapere, Bridget Reweti, Huhana Smith, Saffron Te Ratana and many, many others.

And still you flow on, and may you flow on ever more.

Ng-a mihi aroha.

Matariki Williams is a curator, writer, editor and Curator Mātauranga Māori at the National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.