"Duality is a way in which we structure our world. Whether it be tapu and noa, or kauae runga and kauae raro, te ira atua me te ira tangata, te wahine me te tāne, te tangata whenua me te manuhiri, the important thing is the balance between these things."
He tohunga a Cliff Whiting ki ngā toi Māori, he ringa rehe, he kaitiaki i ngā taonga o nehe, e whakamihatia ana e te marea, he motuhake anō te āhua o āna mahi.
Arā kē te huhua o āna mahi, ko te peita, ko te whakairo rākau, ko te whakairo kōhatu, ko te raranga, ko te hopu whakaahua āna momo. I tua atu i āna mahi toi, he kaiārahi i te mātauranga toi, me ngā rōpū whakahaere toi i Aotearoa. He aho matua a Cliff i te ao Māori, ina tōna kaha ki te hāpai i ngā mahi marae, te hanga wharenui hou me te whakarauora wharenui tawhito. Nā te pūkākā o te ahi i tana puku ki ēnei āhuatanga, ka ohooho te ao Pākehā ki te kaupapa Māori, me te wāhi nui o te marae e ora tonu ai ngā tikanga me ngā toi Māori. Ko ia hoki te Kaihautū tuatahi o Te Papa Tongarewa.
I whānau mai a Cliff i Te Kaha, i te tau 1936, he uri nō roto i ngā kāwai rangatira o tōna iwi, o Te Whānau-a-Apanui. Haere ai ia ki Te Kura Whakangungu Kaiwhakaako i Pōneke i te ngahuru tau o te 1950. He tere kitea ōna pūmanawa, ā, ka poipoia, ka whakatenatenahia. Mai anō, he kaha ia ki te whai i ngā aronga hou mō te toi Māori, me te whakamahi i ngā rawa hou, pērā i te papamārō me te papa marariki, me ngā tae tini anō hoki.
He nui ngā mahi a Cliff i te wā i noho ai ia ki Manawatū, mai i te 1972 ki te 1981, hei pūkenga i Te Kura Whakangungu Kaiwhakaako. He waimarie ngā ākonga ki te haere i tōna taha ki ngā marae maha o te rohe me tua atu, hei ringa āwhina i te iwi kāinga. Ko ia hoki tētahi i whakapau kaha ki te whakatū i te marae o Te Kura, arā, Te Kupenga o te Mātauranga, koia te wharenui tuatahi o te motu ki tētahi whare wānanga Pākehā. Nāna i ārahi ngā ākonga ki ngā mahi whakairo, kōwhaiwhai, raranga kākaho hoki hei whakarākei i te whare i mua i tōna whakatuwheratanga.
He mea whakamiha a Cliff me ētahi atu o ngā ringatoi o tōna reanga, nā rātou ngā toi Māori o te ao tawhito i kawe mai ki roto i te ao hou. Kua whakamanawatia e ia te reanga hou o ngā ringatoi Māori, ina tana aro ki ngā tikanga a ngā tīpuna me te kōtuitui anō i ngā āhuatanga o nāianei.
Kua whakawhiwhia a Cliff ki ētahi hōnore hirahira, pērā i Te Tohu Kairangi Whakahōnore a Te Whare Wānanga o Massey (1996), Te Tohu Taiea Aporei o Aotearoa (ONZ, 1998) mō āna mahi nui i te ao toi, Te Tohu Tiketike a Te Waka Toi (2003), me Te Tohu Whakamana Hiringa a Te Tūāpapa Toi (2013).
E whakaaturia ana ētahi o āna mahi toi ki ngā wāhi tūmatanui, pērā i Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Te Kōti Teitei o Ōtautahi, Te Whare Pāremata, Te Whare Pupuri Taonga o Ōtepoti, Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga, Te Reo Tātaki, me te whare manaaki manuhiri o Aoraki. Kei te whare pupuri taonga o Musee de Dahlem i Tiamana hoki tētahi o āna mahinga toi.
Kei Kororāreka a Cliff e noho ana, ā, i te 2013 o ngā tau i whakaputaina he pukapuka mōna, Cliff Whiting He Toi Nuku He Toi Rangi.
Cliff Whiting is a hugely respected visual artist and heritage advocate with a unique visual style of contemporary Māori art.
Cliff is prolific and works across the mediums of painting, sculpture, printmaking, stone and wood carving, weaving and photography. As well as his own arts practice, he is a key national figure in arts education and administration. He is an important figure in Māori culture, especially in education and in the restoration, construction and preservation of meeting houses. His passion for marae has highlighted to the Pākehā world the role marae play in maintaining and revitalising Māori arts and culture. Cliff Whiting was the first Kaihautū of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.
Born in 1936 in Te Kaha, Cliff Whiting is part of the iwi Te Whānau-a-Apanui. He studied at the Wellington College of Education in the 1950s, where his talent was quickly recognised and encouraged. Throughout his career, he has been innovative in his use of modern materials like particle and hardboard, and also his use of bright colours.
Cliff Whiting made a big contribution to the Manawatū during his time as a lecturer at the Palmerston North College of Education from 1972 to 1981. He introduced the practice of student marae visits and he was a central figure in the planning and building of the college marae, Te Kupenga o Te Mātauranga, the first marae built for a tertiary institution. As well as helping co-ordinate the project, he led students in carving, kōwhaiwhai and weaving of kākaho panels that were completed for the opening of the house.
He is celebrated for the innovative way he and others of his generation brought traditional Māori arts into the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He has inspired many younger artists with how he honours and integrates the traditional, while making it vibrant and alive for the present.
He has received many prestigious awards including an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from Massey University (1996), the Order of New Zealand for services to the arts (1998), Te Tohu Tiketike a Te Waka Toi (2003), and Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award (2013).
Public locations of his large scale works include the National Library, the Christchurch High Court, Parliament, Otago Museum, Archives New Zealand, Television New Zealand and the visitors centre of Aoraki Mt Cook. He also has work in the Musee de Dahlem, Berlin, Germany.
Cliff now resides in Russell, and in 2013 a book about him was published, Cliff Whiting He Toi Nuku He Toi Rangi by Ian Christensen.
See a review of the book here:
"The whole kaupapa of Te Kupenga was quite a radical idea (the first tertiary institution to build its own marae). We knew we were taking a big risk....but there was an even bigger risk, and that was losing our kaupapa Māori altogether."