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Jonathan Mane-Wheoki 1944-2014

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Unlike many scholars of art, Jonathan could actually paint, studying at Canterbury's School of Fine Arts with Rudolf Gopas. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. Always affably disposed, Jonathan was diplomatic to a fault, even when he disagreed with you. He was the “go to” man on the subject of the whakapapa of contemporary Māori art and much New Zealand modernism because he had lived it experientially and was quite unselfconscious about the fact.

Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (ONZM)

Curator, historian and educator Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (Ngāpuhi, Te Aupouri, and Ngāti Kuri,) was a much-loved and respected fixture of the New Zealand art world. A central figure in the scholarship of Māori art, I got to know Jonathan in his time at the University of Canterbury when, as Dean of Music and Fine Arts, he was the supervisor and mentor of my MA research on Theo Schoon. A generous, urbane and patient teacher, he would gently correct my mangling of Te Reo in his mellifluous voice with bonhomie, was probably the first person to tell me that the final ‘t’ in Turandot was pronounced, and always maintained a pastoral concern for his charges well after they, and he, had moved on.

Jonathan went on to become Head of Elam Art School, Head of Arts and Visual Culture at Te Papa, and an advisor to a range of national and international organisations including the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand, the Humanities Panel and Council of the Marsden Fund, the Council and Humanities and Social Sciences Panel of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Advisory Council of Le Centre Culturel Tjibaou in Noumea. In that time he was resolute in keeping Māori and Pacific art to the forefront of any national discourse about New Zealand art. In August this year, at age 70 and stoic in the grip of terminal cancer, he was made a much deserved Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Unlike many scholars of art, Jonathan could actually paint, studying at Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts with Rudolf Gopas. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. Always affably disposed, Jonathan was diplomatic to a fault, even when he disagreed with you. He was the “go to” man on the subject of the whakapapa of contemporary Māori art and much New Zealand modernism because he had lived it experientially and was quite unselfconscious about the fact. I suspect he saw the commonalities in both kinds of creative endeavour as they sought out the “irreducible essence”. That was one of his stock phrases, along with instructing his undergraduates upon dispensing their assignments: “It is a plum pudding. Make a feast of it”.

Following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, he was outspoken in his authority as a respected architectural historian in support of saving Christchurch Cathedral as the “heart” of the city’s identity. He was a very spiritual man, deeply in touch with his High Anglican faith, and indeed, the loss of architectural and religious heritage in the city was one of the few things to bring anger bubbling up through his otherwise unruffled and tranquil demeanour.

He was very much a warm, caring, and above all profoundly civilized - that is the only word for it - man, and he will be sadly missed by all who knew him and the many he guided in the art world. His legacy is far reaching.

He is survived by his partner Paul Bushnell and sister Moea.

In perpetuum frater ave atque vale. (Forever, brother, hail and farewell - Catullus 101)
Hei maumaharatanga ki te tino hoa. (In loving memory of a dear friend.)

Andrew Paul Wood

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.

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