Art New Zealand

Clifford Hamilton Whiting 1936–2017 (And Taiapa’s Unfinished Book . . .)

You have to have stories or some kind of whakapapa relationship to make it [i.e. Māori art] work effectively and properly.

Cliff WhitingHe hawhi Māori, he hawhi Pākehā kei au [ka katakata ia], engari he Māori katoa ōku mahi.

Cliff Whiting, TVNZ Waka Huia, kōrero 2015 (22:49) Te Whanakao te maunga

Oraka te punawai

Kereu te awa

Ko Kaiaio te hapū

Ko Te Whānau-ā-Apanui te iwi

I first came across Cliff Whiting via a single page of elegantly penned calligraphy. It was 1986, the sender’s address was the family home that he, his wife Heather and their boys―Gary, Paul and Dean― shared, in Kororāreka. I’d asked for help on an art history thesis on Te Whānau-a-Apanui kinsman Paratene Matchitt. While not extending a tautoko he expressed concern I capture the complexity and the strengths of Matchitt: the artist, and the man. That responsibility rebounds a little here as I try to capture essence in such a short text. My emphasis is on wānanga, whakapapa me te pūtaketanga, hoping it will resonate broader intangible themes in Whiting’s life and art.

Biculturalism flowed through Whiting’s Kaiaio bloodline and through his creative impulse. His mother Huriana was Māori and his father Frank pākehā. Cliff’s iwi occupies a narrow Eastern Bay of Plenty rohe, caught between rugged hills, ocean and five awa. One of these is Kereu River. Alongside its lower reaches

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