Acclaimed Waiuku sculptor Fred Graham has been awarded the Te Tohu Aroha mō Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu (Supreme Award) at the 2017 Te Waka Toi Awards for excellence in Māori Art.
Acclaimed sculptor wins Supreme Award
One of the most influential figures in Māori art over more than five decades, Fred Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui), started the Māori contemporary art movement in the 1960s with friends and other Māori art luminaries, including the late Drs Cliff Whiting and Ralph Hotere.
Since then, his work has kept a strong connection to Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) through themes inspired by Māori traditions and legends and Treaty of Waitangi issues, such as the loss of land.
Eighty-eight year old, Fred continues to make art addressing contemporary and historic issues, something he attributes to helping maintain his good health.
“It is an honour to receive this award, which is in the name of Dame Te Atairangikaahu, whom I knew and had a long professional and personal association with. I am also very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to express ideas through my art over so many years,” said Fred Graham.
Suzanne Ellison (Ngai Tahu, Ngati Mutunga, Te Ati Awa), Chair of the New Zealand Arts Council’s Māori Committee, said his work has helped highlight important issues for many New Zealanders.
“As an artist, Māori All Black and teacher, Fred Graham has touched the lives of so many from different parts of society. Infused with energy and passion, his art is a cultural touchstone and a vehicle through which important contemporary and historic issues can be addressed,” she said.
His striking work is displayed prominently in public spaces in this country and overseas, including the Auckland High Court and Botanic Gardens, National Archives Building in Wellington, the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington and Port Alberni in British Columbia, where he carved Eagle with a Salmon as part of the International Carvers Exchange in 1986. In 1994 Fred Graham’s work featured in ‘Te Waka Toi: Contemporary Māori Art’, a traveling exhibition that toured the United States.
Fred Graham maintains an interest in topical issues and is currently working on a piece in glass that highlights clean water as a precious resource that must be preserved for all who live in Aotearoa.