Robert Jahnke

Kaokao, 2016

powder coated mild steel, wood, paint, mirror pane, neon and electricity
2,331 x 3,852 x 600 mm

KAOKAO is a pattern found in Māori tribal houses signifying fortitude and virility. It alludes to the haka stance assumed as a prelude to war or in celebration of victory. The kaokao is composed of two crosses with the bilateral inversion of the chevron horizontally referencing the ‘K’ figure associated with Polynesian art.

The diamond void acts as a portal for viewing the significant Whetumatarau headland to the north and ocean and islands beyond, alluding to the arrival and conquest through time by different iwi, followed by European settlement, logging, farming and tourism. Inevitably what was once Māori land has all but disappeared with the exception of Whetumatarau and the sculpture’s two crosses are a symbol of the two waves of settlement on Waiheke Island; Maori and European. KAOKAO stands as a beacon to remind people of a history of land alienation and waves of mana whenua that turned the foreshore of Matiatia into a wahi tapu that continues to unveil the bones of ancestors.

– Robert Jahnke

Robert Jahnke

born 1951, Waipiro Bay
Lives and works in Palmerston North
Ngai Taharora, Te Whanau a Iritekura, Te Whanau a Rakiroa o Ngati Porou

Robert Jahnke’s practice crosses design, illustration, animation, and sculpture. His work often possesses a political edge, challenging the established Eurocentric narration of New Zealand’s history, and highlighting differing perceptions of history and culture particularly championing the Māori experience and worldview.

A leading Māori academic and proponent of contemporary Māori art, Jahnke is the former Head of the School of Māori Art, Knowledge and Education at Massey University in Palmerston North. He is currently the Professor of Maori Visual Arts for the Toioho ki Apiti Māori Visual Arts programme. Recent exhibitions include: Ata: a third reflection. Pataka Art & Museum (2016), Korerareka Visual Kai exhibition, Haratu, Russell (2015-16) and Te Atinga 25 years on, Mangere Arts Centre (2013). Major public works by Jahnke include a pou for the ASB Waterfront Theatre (2016) and window and door designs for The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington (1997).

Represented by Paul Nache Gallery, Gisborne.