Ngāti Whātua artist Graham Tipene a finalist in Matariki Awards

By Jessica Tyson

Artist Graham Tipene has etched his way from the needle to the chisel and recently moved his designs to the roads and bridges in Auckland.

In recognition of his work, Tipene, of Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Manu, Ngāti Hine and Ngāti Haua, has been named a finalist for the Te Waipuna-ā-Rangi award for arts and entertainment at this 2020 Matariki Awards.

Tipene is behind multiple designs across Auckland, including the Tirohanga Whānui walking and cycling bridge in Albany. He says he hopes to bring more of a Māori presence to Auckland.

“So our kids can go anywhere in the city and see themselves and understand they are important and their identity is important, so they’re not walking around as if they’re manuhiri to their own towns.

“So my kids, anyone’s kids can say ‘Oh look that design is a Māori design, I’m Māori and I feel good here’.”

Tipene says his mother set him on his journey into the art world.

“She was a big influence, sorting paper for me to draw on, pulling me out of sport, putting me into art classes on a Saturday while I was watching my mates play sport and then pushing me through to university.”

Tipene is also a tā moko artist. He was eight years old when drew his first mataora (Māori male facial tattoo).

“Didn’t know what I was doing at the time but I knew this was something I wanted to pursue and then at university studying Māori art there helped me understand that I wanted to get into moko.”

For the past 15 years, he has been working on civic architecture across Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland.

“Tāmaki was missing some of that and so we wanted to bring some of that back to Tāmaki so that when people, when they arrive, knew and understood this is a Māori whenua.”

Tipene is one of three finalists of Te Waipuna-ā-Rangi alongside Chelsea Winstanley and Shane Cotton. The awards ceremony will be broadcast live on Māori Television from 8:30pm on Saturday, August 15 alongside a live Facebook feed.