Cliff Whiting, artist and member of Order of New Zealand, dies, aged 81
He was born in a nikau hut with ponga tree walls, and grew to become one of our country's most revered artists.
Master carver Cliff Whiting, who died at the age of 81 on Sunday morning. He was 81. Whiting played a pivotal role in the early days of Te Papa and was recognised for his efforts when he was made a member of the prestigious Order of New Zealand.
Whiting was of Te Whanau a Apanui descent in the eastern Bay of Plenty/East Coast.
He was appointed to the order in 1998 and his name sits alongside other great New Zealanders, such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Helen Clark, and Sir Bob Charles.
He was the master carver responsible for creating Te Papa's contemporary marae and was the museum's first kaihautu (leader).
In a 2015 interview with television show Waka Huia said he was born in Te Pohue, Hawke's Bay, in the modest hut and learned many of his skills from his Maori mother and Pakeha father.
Te Papa chief executive Geraint Martin said Whiting was instrumental in establishing the national museum.
"His vision and leadership in designing our spectacular Marae, Rongomaraeroa, embodied the spirit of partnership that the museum has honoured from its beginnings to this very day.
"His mana and dignity, and contribution to the understanding of our bi-cultural history and artistic traditions, was recognised in his receiving Aotearoa New Zealand's highest honour - The Order of New Zealand.
"His legacy lives on in Te Papa through the example he set, which we follow and build upon to this day."
Arts Foundation director Simon Bowden said Whiting received the Icon Award, the foundation's highest honour for artists for extraordinary achievement and with a profound impact on the nation, in 2013.
"Cliff's work is part of the national fabric with many thousands of people moved by his exceptional work at the marae in Te Papa and in other public locations. Cliff's work will live on in the hearts and minds of New Zealanders."
According to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), which administers the order, Whiting "led carving and traditional Maori art into the 20th century and forged new cultural directions for Maori art".
His large scale works were in places including the Christchurch High Court, the National Archives, and Te Papa, where his notable Te Marae work was.
"His use of customboard revolutionised the pattern which traditional meeting houses are based upon, thus challenging the misconceptions that Maori carving and contemporary art cannot be successfully fused together," DPMC's website says.
Whiting spent 15 years as a Department of Education art adviser, was involved in the the introduction of Maori art in schools, and was one of the first Maori artists to illustrate for school publications such as Te Wharekura and Tautoko.
As a lecturer in Maori art at Palmerston North Teacher's College he introduced the then-new concept of marae visits.
He was also a founding member and former chairman for the Council for Maori and South Pacific Arts - now known as Te Waka Toi - as well as a member and deputy chair of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council.
He was a member of the Maori Advisory Board for the Historic Places Trust of New Zealand and received the Allan Highet Award in 1986.
He was also awarded membership to Te Ara Whakerei, for his consistent excellence in the arts.