“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 Māori, 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's 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 Māori 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 Māori art movement.
As an influential figure within the contemporary Māori 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.’