Robert Jahnke

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Robert (Bob) Jahnke

Ngāi Taharora, Te Whānau a Iritekura, and Te Whānau a Rakairoa

Primarily a sculptor, Bob Jahnke (1951) is considered one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary Māori artists. He works with a range of media including found objects, steel and lead.  Of Samoan-German-Irish-Māori heritage, his work is typically based on political issues that face Māori people, the relationship between Māori and European colonisers and the impact of Christianity on Māori culture.

After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design and a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University, Bob Jahnke headed to the California Institute of the Arts where he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Animation.

Returning to New Zealand, he taught in Hastings, Rotorua and Auckland before shifting to Palmerston North to join the staff of Massey University. While a lecturer he studied for and earned his PhD and, in 1991, set up the Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts Programme Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, which he has subsequently coordinated. In addition to training in the arts, the progamme includes Te Reo Māori (Māori language) and Tikanga Māori (Māori protocol).  He is Professor of Māori Visual Arts.

Through his position at Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, he influences the next generation of Māori artists which is imperative to Bob, who says, “Because I am Māori first and foremost I see my role as an educator as far more important for Māori culture than my role as an artist…. For me personally this commitment is a cultural obligation.”

His work has been exhibited widely and is included in both public and private collections.