Jonathan Ngarimu Mane-Wheoki (1943–2014)

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Wednesday 15 October 2014
Rhana Devenport

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It is with tremendous sorrow that Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki acknowledges the passing of Professor Jonathan Ngarimu Mane-Wheoki (Ngāpuhi/Te Aupouri/Ngāti Kuri), who died peacefully on the evening of 10 October 2014.

Jonathan will always remain a deeply respected and greatly loved curator, academic and historian in the fields of art, architecture and culture. Since 2010 he has been a pivotal member of Haerewa, Auckland Art Gallery’s Māori Advisory Group, offering invaluable advice and generously sharing his extraordinary knowledge.

Along with his exceptional ability to work effectively and elegantly across the spheres of art, academia and museums, Jonathan has been remarkable in offering both a Māori worldview and a European perspective. His specialist fields deftly spanned art and architecture from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. He has been a highly influential pioneer in the development of contemporary Māori and Pacific art and art history within university and curatorial contexts. In essence, his nuanced understanding defied the categories of academic disciplines and spanned centuries. Jonathan’s contribution is enduring and profound.

Highly respected at home in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally, Jonathan will long be remembered for his brilliant oration and his powerful intellectual support of and advocacy for contemporary Māori art practice, alongside his passionate Māori voice in the fields of art history, architecture, fine arts education, cultural exchange and critical writing.

Although his health was failing, 2014 proved to be an extraordinarily fertile year for Jonathan in his tireless and determined pursuit to advance the place of Māori and Pacific art. In March he travelled to the United Kingdom to speak at an international conference on Pacific art in Cambridge and to contribute to the advisory group for a major forthcoming exhibition, Oceania, at the Royal Academy in London. He also participated in an important colloquium with the Centre Pompidou in Paris which examined the legacy of the formative 1989 exhibition, Les Magiciens de la Terre. These projects reflect the level of esteem in which he was long been held within the international cultural community.

Earlier in 2014, Jonathan contributed a pivotal and spirited essay to the catalogue for Five Māori Painters, an exhibition organised by Auckland Art Gallery. Also this year, Jonathan was deservedly made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the arts. Recently, in September, he was awarded a medal as Companion of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the citation of which reads:  

‘…Jonathan has contributed significantly to academic and museum circles and has held senior positions that situate him at the forefront in ongoing dialogue about New Zealand’s history and expression in the arts. Through his work at the University of Canterbury from 1975 to 2004, as Senior Lecturer and Dean of Music and Fine Arts, Jonathan has had a major influence on a whole generation of our scholars and curators who themselves are now leaders in the field. His depth of knowledge and his willingness to foster debate and research continue to be an inspiration across our sector.’

Jonathan has published extensively; developed exhibitions, presented lectures and seminars on art, museums and cultural heritage both nationally and internationally. His expertise is widely sought and he has served on numerous advisory and governance bodies throughout his career. In recent years he has divided his time between academia and the museum profession in leadership roles at the University of Auckland and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.’

Jonathan will be greatly missed by a wide community of friends, colleagues, artists and students, all of whom benefited from his remarkable insight, generosity, encouragement, faith, passion and intellectual acumen.

Our thoughts and aroha are with his partner of 35 years, Paul Bushnell, and his sister Moea

Kei konā te aroha me te whakaaro

Hei maumaharatanga ki te tino hoa