Entertainment | Artists

Sculptor and celebrated dancers among Arts Laureates

The 2020 dance performance Hōkioi me te Vwōhali (From spirit eagles land), which connects Māori and Cherokee Native American cultures, was choreographed by Taiaroa Royal. It tells the story of the shared whakapapa of the two-spirit animals. Photo / File

Three Māori artists have been recognised among this year’s nine most outstanding Aotearoa artists by the Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi.

Sculptor Robert Jahnke (Ngāti Porou, Samoa) and contemporary dancers and choreographers Sean MacDonald (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Raukawa) and Taiaroa Royal (Te Arawa, Ngāti Raukawa, Uenukopako, Kāi Tahu) were revealed as Te Tumu Toi Laureate Award recipients on Friday evening.

Jahnke received the Jillian Friedlander Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Laureate Award which acknowledges outstanding Māori and Pasifika creatives within the arts, while MacDonald was awarded the Burr/Tatham Trust Award as an outstanding artist of any discipline.

“Considered one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary Māori artists, Robert Jahnke is a highly respected educator who works as an historian, teacher, researcher, writer and advocate for Māori and indigenous arts nationally and internationally. Over the years his practice has straddled design, illustration, animation, sculpture, painting and neon installation,” Te Tumu Toi wrote on Facebook on Friday.

MacDonald is one of Aotearoa’s “most celebrated” dancers, Te Tumu Toi wrote.

“Renowned contemporary dancer and performer Sean MacDonald is one of Aotearoa’s most celebrated and distinguished dance artists, with a career spanning over 30 years. He has worked with New Zealand’s leading choreographers and dance companies, as well as being a founding member of Black Grace.”

Royal received the Toi Kō Iriiri Queer Award which celebrates an outstanding artist – or collective of artists – whose practice has a meaningful impact on queer arts communities.

“Since 1984, multi-award-winning Taiaroa Royal has been one of New Zealand’s most outstanding and versatile dancers, and a founding member of Black Grace and Okareka Dance Company. He is the second recipient of the Toi Kō Iriiri Queer Laureate Award, recognising his embodiment of the queer experience at a time when that wasn’t seen on stage.”

Also recognised as Laureates were photographer Fiona Clark, musician Ladi6 (aka Karoline Tamati), filmmaker Annie Goldson, illustrator Giselle Clarkson, photographer Peter Black and sculptor Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi.

Clark’s photographs from her Te Iwi o Te Wāhi Kore series in 1980–81 - which acknowledges the historical confiscation of the majority of Ngātiawa and Te Atiawa land along the coastline north-east of Mount Taranaki - were used in support of the Motunui – Waitara Treaty of Waitangi Claim.

Each of the award recipients received $35,000.

“They are recognised for their outstanding practice as well as their significant impact,” the Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi said in a release.