Uku (clay) work wins 2023 King Tūheitia Portraiture Award

Stevei Houkāmau from Ngāti Porou and Te Whānau-a-Apanui with Kia Whakatōmuri te haere whakamua

An emerging artist has won this year's top portrait award.

Launched in 2021, the King Tūheitia Portraiture Award is a biennial competition that encourages emerging Māori artists to create portraits of their tupuna (ancestors) using any visual medium.

This year’s winner is emerging artist Stevei Houkāmau from Ngāti Porou and Te Whānau-a-Apanui with an uku (clay) work.

Houkāmau was presented with her award tonight at Pipitea Marae in Wellington in the presence of the king. Her work, Kia Whakatōmuri te haere whakamua, was selected from  96 entries from all around the country and 43 finalists.

When describing her winning work, Stevei says, “My work is about my great great grandmother Hinemaurea. She was the daughter of Raramaitai and was married to Te Aotaki and they occupied Wharekahika in the 16th century. She had five children and was the mother of Ruataupare, who Tuwhakairiora (a great Ngati Porou chief) married to ensure the security of Ngai Tuiti whenua, which infused the stock of Porourangi throughout Tairawhiti. Hinemaurea was seen to have great mana and has two existing maraes named after her, including our marae in Wharekahika, Hawke's Bay.”

A distinguished panel of well-known artists judged the finalist artworks. They were portrait artist Graham Hoete aka "Mr G" (Ngati Awa, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Ranginui), researcher, artist, arts educator and curator, Steve Gibbs (Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Rongomaiwahine) and artist Lisa Reihana (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tūteauru, Ngāi Tupoto), who is known around the world for her portraits and digital art.

The King Tūheitia Portraiture Award exhibition will run at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakata in Shed 11 on Wellington’s waterfront from tomorrow until Sunday, August 20. After this, the exhibition will be touring nationally.  The public can also vote for their choice to win the People’s Choice Award – a cash prize of $2,500, to be announced at the close of the exhibition.