Creative New Zealand mourns the passing of Cliff Whiting
18 Jul 2017
Creative New Zealand mourns the passing of renowned Māori artist, art educator and art administrator, Cliff Whiting.
Taku manawa e kakapa nei. e kakapa ana ki ngā whetū, ki te marama ka tau nei ki te rua. Kātahi au ka kite i te hē, kātahi au ka kite i te mate. Ko taku tau kahurangi, ka riro kei Paerau ki te huihuinga o te kahurangi, ka oti atu koutou e. E te totara haemata, te rātā whakamarumaru o ngā taonga toi o Aotearoa. Haere, haere, haere atu ra. He kanohi hōmiromiro, he ihumanea, he kaitiaki nō tōna pātaka iringa kōrero, kua kore. He toki tārai i te rākau, tārai kōrero mō ngā toi o Aotearoa me ōna hītori, kua riro. Ahakoa te teitei o ngā kōrero, ka whiu ki runga i a koe, e kore a muri e hokia nā reira. ‘He kokonga whare e kitea, he kokonga ngākau e kore e kitea’.
A practising artist, teacher and leader, Cliff Whiting stood astride heritage and contemporary Māori arts. He made an outstanding contribution to Māori art and culture across a wide variety of artforms, and through art education, art administration, marae building and renovation over more than 50 years.
Born in 1936 near Te Kaha on the East Coast, his distinctive style of contemporary Māori art was based on his Te Whānau-a-Apanui tribal traditions. He was known for an innovative approach, using new materials in wood carving, sculpture, bone and stone carving, and oil and watercolour painting.
Many of his large scale works are displayed in public spaces around New Zealand including the National Library, the Christchurch High Court, the Beehive and the visitors’ centre at Aoraki Mt Cook. He led the building of Takahanga marae in Kaikoura and invited pākehā artists to contribute. He also contributed to key international projects representing New Zealand, including the Headlands exhibition for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
A trained secondary teacher, he became a Department of Education district advisor in arts and crafts under Dr Clarence Beeby and Gordon Tovey. During the 1970s he lectured in Māori art at Palmerston North Teachers' College.
Cliff Whiting was involved in a large number of marae building and renovation projects and served on numerous national arts committees. He was the first Kaihautū of Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand and worked tirelessly to establish a fully bicultural kaupapa for the national institution.
He was a member of Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council from 1989 and Deputy Chair from 1990 to 1994. He was critical to the development of structural reforms adopted in the 1994 Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa Act and was a foundation member of the Council for Māori and Pacific Council. In 1998 he was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand. In 2003 he received theTe Tohu Tiketike a Te Waka Toi (Supreme Award) at the Te Waka Toi awards, which recognise excellence in Māori art.
Links to other tributes: