Jailed Iti painted cover of magazine 'for the cause'

COVER: The latest New Zealand Geographic magazine.
COVER: The latest New Zealand Geographic magazine.

Tuhoe activist Tame Iti, whose painting features on the cover of the latest New Zealand Geographic, was paid for his work but would have done it for free, says the magazine's editor.

Iti is serving a two-year sentence at Waikeria Prison after being found guilty in March this year of six firearms offences.

New Zealand Geographic editor James Frankham said he wanted a Tuhoe artist to do the cover and sought out Iti for the job.

Tame Iti
Tame Iti

"We paid a bit in terms of expenses, for driving around and gas and materials but it was very small," Mr Frankham said.

"He didn't do this for the money. He did it for the cause."

Iti has an extensive body of work and Mr Frankham said he was the right man for the job.

"Tuhoe have a long tradition of painting which is much more important to them than carving," he said.

"Tame is Tuhoe to the core and regardless of what people think of his actions he is looking for the same thing which is mana motuhake [autonomy] so it made him a good person to do it."

Iti's son, Wairere Iti, acted on behalf of his father, buying the art supplies and delivering them to Waikeria Prison. "All we did was go through Wairere Iti and we just included a koha basically to pay for expenses. It wasn't us who physically supplied him with the material."

The magazine used an image of the painting but the artwork itself remains Iti's property. It depicts the rugged backdrop of the Tuhoe people, Te Urewera forest, with mist covered hills and ghostly figures.

"This work is a validation," Iti told the magazine. "Of the whakapapa, the responsibility and the future that Tuhoe have with Te Urewera."

New Zealand Geographic said Iti's cover was his contribution to a 40-page feature on the Tuhoe people and their struggle for independence. It was written by Canon Feature Writer of the Year Kennedy Warne and photographed by Peter James Quinn.

Mr Frankham said a lot of work went into the Tuhoe story and Iti's cover painting "rounded off the issue nicely".

"It was a big story in the magazine and we were looking for a cover that joined the dots for us. It is a cover that connects Tuhoe to the land."

Corrections Department regional manager Terry Buffery said it was not uncommon for art materials to be donated to prisons.

The department was not aware of any financial arrangement between Iti and New Zealand Geographic.