Dr Benjamin Pittman ONZM (1947–2023): Rangatira, Kaumatua, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hao, Te Parawhau, Ngāti Hau. Artist, Historian, Educator.
E te rangatira, e pari ana te tai ki tawhiti nui, ki tawhiti roa, ki a koutou rā kua ngaro i te ao, kua riro ki te pō. E moe, e moe, e moe i tō moe.
Koutou te pō ki a koutou, mātou te āpōpō ki a mātou, tēnā tātou katoa.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is saddened to hear of the recent passing of Dr Benjamin Pittman.
Born in Whangarei in 1947, Dr Pittman was one of the first Māori graduates to obtain both Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau (1967–70; 1973). He later gained a PhD from the University of Technology Sydney.
Dr Pittman was a member of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki’s Haerewa Māori advisory group from 2015–2021. A proud descendant of Patuone and Tamati Waka Nene, he supported the Gallery’s iwi liaison around Gottfried Lindauer’s portraits of these rangatira. During his time as a member of Haerewa, Dr Pittman was an advisor and mentor to key staff including Ngahiraka Mason, Nigel Borell, Sarah Hillary, Julie Koke, and more recently Nathan Pōhio. We acknowledge his generous support of the Gallery’s endeavours and his stewardship of Māori art, artists and communities.
In September 2022 in an article for The Big Idea website, Dr Pittman powerfully observed: ‘contemporary Māori arts practice is thriving, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally . . . Within all of this dynamism, te reo too is thriving. Te reo is the glue and the linkage and the key to every part of the Māori world. As well as its role in documenting and telling stories, Māori artists use te reo in titling their work and importantly in connecting to vast spiritual and philosophical landscapes, providing context to the current physical realities of being Māori.’
A respected Tohunga Toi, Dr Pittman served the community through numerous Māori council and marae roles, including chair of Te Pouwhenua o Tiakiriri Kūkupa Trust Board – Te Parawhau ki Tai and Creative Northland. He was lifetime member of Toi Iho, as well as a trustee and secretary of the of the Toi Iho Charitable Trust and Wairau Māori Art Gallery Charitable Trust. In 2021 Dr Pittman was duly recognised as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Māori and art.
The staff of Toi o Tāmaki send our aroha to Dr Pittman’s partner Brian Murphy, their whānau and many friends.