“I think that art should reflect the time in which it is created. Tradition is important to our people and while we often look back, it should be done to find something that might help us more easily adapt to circumstances that are constantly changing”

“I was born in 1928 – 64 years after the Battle of Orakau. At primary and high school the stories and songs were those of Britain and Europe. While I enjoyed this dimension, I am Maori, so my art is all about reminding people that Aotearoa also has Poems, Stories and Waiatas, things which make us different to other Commonwealth Communities.”

Fred Graham is a Tainui kaumatua of Ngati Koroki Kahukura descent. He is world-renowned carver and a warm and inspiring mentor who has generously shared his knowledge and skills with his peers as well as with emerging artists. His early talent was recognised and nurtured at Ardmore Teachers Training College where he was encouraged to specialise in teaching art. Soon his interest in sculpture was sparked, and he became serious about his art, teaching himself to carve in wood and stone and later experimenting with steel as he established his career as a sculptor.

His sculptures are a unique fusion of Maori and European cultures, often combining traditional wood and stone with modern materials to explore sometimes controversial issues. He has many sculptures displayed in prominent public spaces in New Zealand. Te Papa Tongarewa and Parliament – as well as commissioned works in several other Pacific Rim countries.

In 2014, Fred Graham – Creator of Forms, Te Tohunga Auhaha by Maria de Jong was published. It is a rich retrospective that reveals the stories behind Graham’s life and art – from his early career as an art teacher to his emergence as a revered figure within the contemporary Maori art movement.

As an influential figure within the contemporary Maori art movement, Graham is highly regarded nationally and internationally. His passion for his art is surpassed only by his love for his family: ‘Family comes first. After all the pats and adoration have died down, that’s what you’ve got left – family.’

Portrait  (pictured above right) by Geoff Dale .

Fred and Norma at the 2018 Icon Awards. Image by Mark Tantrum

1928
Born in Arapuni, Waikato to Kiwa and Hine Graham and Hine Graham.
1951
After attending Dunedin Teachers College, he became Art Advisor to Maori Schools in Rotorua and was also a Bay of Plenty Rugby Representative.
1952-54
He became an Art Advisor to Maori schools north of Kaitaia and a North Auckland Rugby Representative.
1954-1956
Fred becomes an Art Teacher in Dargaville, continues to be a North Auckland Rugby Representative and becomes a NZ Maori Rugby Representative in1955.
1957-1962
During these years he married Norma Sills, was appointed as Lecturer in Art at Palmerston North Teachers College and was a Manukau Rugby Representative. He is part of the Māori contemporary art movement which began in the 1960s with friends and other Māori art luminaries including the late Drs Cliff Whiting and Ralph Hotere.
1963-1980
Fred continues his teaching career, from1963-1965 as an art teacher at Tauranga Boys College, and them from 1966-1980 at Papakura High School as Head of Art.
1981-84
Fred becomes Head of Art at Macleans College in Auckland, and in 1983-4 is also on the marking panel for School Certificate Art.
1985-1989
In 1985, he became a carving tutor at Manukau Institute of Technology, in 1986-89 he was head of Art at Tuakau College. In 1986, he visited Canada as part of the International Carvers Exchange, carving Eagle with a Salmon for Port Alberni in British Columbia.
1990
From 1990, Fred became a full-time carver.
1994
Fred Graham’s work featured in 'Te Waka Toi: Contemporary Māori Art', a traveling exhibition that toured the United States.
1996
Member of Haerewa (Maori Advisory Group), Auckland Art Gallery (Toi O Tamiki). He completed a commission for the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington.
2014
Fred Graham – Creator of Forms, Te Tohunga Auhaha by Maria de Jong was published.
2017
Receives Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi supreme award.
2018
Named as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit on the New Years Honours List 2018, for his services to Maori Art. In the same year he also became an Arts Foundation Icon award recipient.

Awards