Dame Robin White wins Te Waka Toi Supreme Award

Dame Robin White (Ngāti Awa) has spent years perfecting her visual art craft, telling stories that matter.

Now, she’s been bestowed the Te Tohu Aroha mō Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu | Exemplary/Supreme Award at this year’s Te Waka Toi Awards, for her lifelong contribution to the arts at home and across the Pacific.

“When something comes your way, unexpected and unasked for, it’s a big surprise,” she says.

She joins a long list of past winners such as Dr Tīmoti Kāretu, Sir Howard Morrison and Sir Hekenukumai Busby, all of whom have been given the award for their extraordinary mahi and contributions in their fields.

“[It’s] a really heightened sense of responsibility and a confirmation, I guess, of the value of an approach that seeks to find ways in which we can reflect our togetherness,” she says.

“It was a moment to reflect on my art practice and the approach that I’ve been adopting lately.”

Throughout her years she notes her father’s “standards of excellence” throughout any mahi he did as she grew up as an inspiration and drive for her own journey into te ao toi.

Her career spans over 50 years, and she spent 17 years living and working in Kiribati.

Reflecting back to the earlier hui of the Māori Artists and Writers Association years ago, she recalls it as “individuals coming together from their separate spaces to find assurance and encouragement”.

“We were like little streams that were seeking to find the big river. I think, since then, it has moved towards being a mighty river. It’s mainstream now, very powerful.”

Her latest exhibition, Robin White: Te Whanaketanga | Something is Happening Here, being shown at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki now through to January 2023, is a backwards-looking journey featuring some of her most iconic pieces, her international collaborations and more.

Story credited to Mana Wikaire-Lewis, Te Ao Māori News