Born in 1936, in a whare raupō beside the Kereu river, inland from Te Kaha on the East Coast, Cliff Whiting showed early signs of having inherited the artistic creativity inherent in his whakapapa. This talent was nurtured, encouraged, and challenged by many, in particular by Pine Taiapa of Ngāti Porou and Gordon Tovey.
Whiting developed a distinctive style of contemporary Māori art, based firmly on his Te Whānau-a-Apanui tribal traditions, which can be seen in his marae building and his public and individual artworks. His style across a wide range of art forms, including wood carving, sculpture and construction, bone and stone carving, oil and watercolour, ink drawing, printmaking, fibre-weaving and photography, along with an innovative approach to using new materials, has in turn been inspiring to many younger New Zealand artists.
He contributed his expertise and time to a large number of marae building and renovation projects, he served on numerous national arts committees. He was the first Kaihautū of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand where he worked to establish a fully bicultural kaupapa as a foundation for the institution, as well as carving Te Papa’s Marae, Rongomaraeroa. His many large scale works are displayed in numerous locations around New Zealand including the National Library, the Christchurch High Court, the Beehive, Television New Zealand, and the visitors centre at Aoraki Mt Cook. In 1998, Whiting was appointed to The Order of New Zealand.