University mourns the loss of Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki

13 October 2014

Kua hinga te tōtara i te wao nui a Tāne
A great tōtara in the forest of Tāne has fallen

It is with heartfelt sadness that the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries at the University of Auckland acknowledges the passing of Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Professor of Fine Arts, last Friday evening, October 10, 2014.

Professor Mane-Wheoki was one of New Zealand’s leading art historians and a highly-regarded teacher having taught thousands of fine arts and art history students over an academic career spanning nearly 35 years. He was also a generous mentor, assisting many academics, curators and artists in the development of their careers. His specialist teaching and research interests included the histories of indigenous art, with a specific interest in that of Māori and Pacific peoples, early Modern European art, and the Gothic Revival.

Professor Mane-Wheoki was appointed to the Elam School of Fine Arts as Head of School in 2009 and remained in that role until 2012. Previous to this appointment he was Director of Art and Collections Services at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (2004-9) including service as Director of Repatriation (2008-9), and Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Canterbury (1975-2004) including terms as Head of School and Dean of Music and Fine Arts. Since 2013 Professor Mane-Wheoki held a concurrent part-time position as Head of Art and Visual Culture at Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand.

Raised in the Bay of Plenty and Titirangi, Professor Mane-Wheoki later moved to Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury, receiving a Diploma in Fine Arts majoring in painting (1969), followed by a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature (1971). Three years later he completed a Master in Fine Arts in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, where he completed his dissertation on Victorian High Gothic ecclesiastical architecture. He was also an Associate of the Trinity College of Music, London (1968).

There are few academics who have had such a profound influence on the development of our country’s creative humanities than Professor Mane-Wheoki. He sought to establish a ‘New Zealand art history’ with an intellectual integrity that matched scholarly art historical methods. His published and taught work influenced generations of art historians, curators, and arts commentators; his observations on New Zealand art in a global context were widely sought by national and international universities, galleries, museums and art organisations inspired by the picture of pioneering artists he has painted.

Within the national art history he championed, he purposefully created a space for Māori and Pacific art. This work has been globally ground-breaking and with colleagues Associate Professor Deidre Brown (Architecture and Planning) and Dr Ngarino Ellis (Art History) he continued to extend it through his 2013 Marsden-funded research project ‘Toi Te Mana: a history of indigenous art,’ which seeks to establish a new Māori art history. His empathy for the advancement of Māori culture has been evident in his development of a number of equity initiatives at Auckland and Canterbury Universities that have supported the education of Māori and Pacific students.

In a career marked by conspicuous public service both in New Zealand and overseas, he has served with distinction on a number of important organisations. Recent major appointments included to the College of Governors of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, the Board of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and Member of Haerewa (Māori Advisory Group), Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. He had also previously served as Kaitiaki Māori at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, and as a member of the Marsden Council, Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Humanities Panel (including a term as Chair), Humanities Society of New Zealand Te Whainga Aronui (including a term as President), the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand, and Te Waka Toi: the Māori Arts Board of Creative New Zealand, and the Advisory Council of the Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou, Noumea.

His dedicated service to the arts community and academia over a sustained period was recognised by a number of important awards. In 2008 he received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Canterbury, and four years later his contribution to the humanities over a sustained period was recognised by the Royal Society of New Zealand with the 2012 Pou Aronui Award. In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours Professor Mane-Wheoki was appointed a Companion to the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to the arts. In September he was appointed Companion of the Auckland War Memorial Museum for his services to museums. At the latter event he delivered a moving speech about the important role that museums and universities, and the people who work within them, have in the shaping of identity.

Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki was an exemplary academic whose passing will be felt keenly by colleagues and students at the University of Auckland and widely through the New Zealand arts community. He is survived by his partner Paul Bushnell and his sister Moea Barber.

Professor Mane-Wheoki will lie in state at Waipapa Marae, the University of Auckland on Friday 17 October from 6pm. The following morning he will depart the Marae at 9am for his Requiem Mass, which will be at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell from 10.30am to 12.30pm on Saturday 18 October. After the Mass, he will be taken to Piki Te Aroha Marae, Rāhiri Settlement Rd, Horeke, Northland, for his tangi, which will begin after 6pm. Jonathan will be laid to rest next to his beloved father, Hetiraka, on Sunday after a funeral service at 10am.

Professor Jonathan Ngarimu Mane-Wheoki CNZM, BA, DipFA(Hons), HonDLitt Cant., MA Courtauld Inst., ATCL (Ngāpuhi/Te Aupouri/Ngāti Kuri), academic and curator: born 1943; died October 10, 2014.

Haere, haere, haere atu rā.