t. 93, Mark Stocker and Conal McCarthy, editors, Colonial Gothic to Maori Renaissance: Essays in memory of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki.

Colonial Gothic to Maori Renaissance:
Essays in memory of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki
by Mark Stocker and Conal McCarthy, editors.
Wellington: VUP (2017).
RRP: $80. Hb, b/w and colour, 322pp.
ISBN: 9781776561650.
Reviewed by Cassandra Fusco.

Erudite yet eminently readable, this is a puissant testament to a remarkable academic and activist, Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (1943-2014). In their Acknowledgements in Colonial Gothic to Maori Renaissance: Essays in Memory of Jonathan Man-Wheoki editors Mark Stocker and Conal McCarthy comment that a Gedenkschrift (a memorial volume) is a difficult thing to write and edit. They have, nevertheless, brought together a body of work[1] that reflects deeply upon an individual pre-eminent in the arts, culture and heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond.

The scope of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki’s work was as far-ranging as its scale, extending from the art and architectural history of Europe and Christianity, to Māori and Pacific art and culture. Born of Ngapuhi, Te Aupouri, Ngati Kuri and English descent, he was a pioneer in the study of contemporary Māori and Pacific art history by means of the Indigenous Knowledges approaches which he developed and promoted and the effects and legacy of which are comprehensively discussed and cross-referenced by the contributing essayists.

In her Preface Deidre Brown comments that when Jonathan wrote, his words ‘were powerful, direct, enlightening and based on excellent scholarship’; that he ‘saw art history as its own universe, an unbounded and expanding spatial entity … [that he] understood that the close study of individual artists and their work, and their immediate social milieu, could be the basis for commentary on, and criticism of, larger movements within the global story of art.’ (pp ix-xi).[2]

Central to this possibility, and advocated by Jonathan himself, was the importance of developing relationships and creating facilitative networks to enable the arts of the world to commingle with the international on a par. How and why Jonathan reasoned for a revision and decolonisation of the history of art informs Anne-Marie White’s essay, ‘Decolonising Art History: Jonathan Mane-Wheoki and Contemporary Māori Art’ (pp 204-212) [3]. Drawing upon an archive held at Te Papa Tongarewa, White maps the breadth of vision and purpose behind Jonathan’s words (written and spoken) and his inimitable modus operandi.

Specific aspects of this “unthinking Eurocentrism” are considered further by Chloe Cull in, ‘The Road to Revolution: The Political Paintings of Emily Karaka’ (pp 213-224), concerning political activism and tino rangatiratanga (Māoir self-determination, sovereignty). Cull’s findings dovetail with Karen Stevenson’s essay, ‘Crossing Borders – Extending the Canon (pp 225-237), concerning the self-assertion of and conceptual positioning by Pacific artists from the mid to late 1980s – their affirmation of identity and a sovereignty of ideological and artistic practice – within the wider global context. In turn, Martin Bryant’s essay, and interview with artists, Penny Allan and Huhana Smith, offer rich insights into the dynamic of collaboration in art, design and the environment (see: ‘He Whakawhiti Kōrero’, pp 238-247).

Caroline Turner’s Afterword, ‘A Recentred World’ traces much of Jonathan’s ‘profound and enduring influence’ (pp 249-252); his challenging of dominant Eurocentric assumptions by constantly drawing attention to the absence/presence of indigenous art, was informed not only by a depth of knowledge across the humanities, but also by his particular ability to bring diverse people together to work collaboratively and co-operatively.[4]

The work these contributors and essayists explore concerns decolonisation, a re-mapping of mind and imagination in which the energies and input of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki remain inestimable.

This is not simply a memorial volume lavishly illustrated and with high production values. Its contents are as varied, searching and fascinating as the man himself: Victorian church architecture and liturgy, mysticism, the New Zealand International Exhibition of 1906, the Toi Te Papa exhibition of 2006, traditional and contemporary Māori art, and individual artists as different as Thomas Benjamin Kennington (1856-1916) and Emily Karaka.

Together with the editors and contributors, Victoria University Press has produced a rich archival resource of one individual’s efforts to increase our sense of identity, of equality amongst and understanding of cultures. A fitting tribute to a much loved and respected academic and activist.

[1] Contributors: Deidre Brown, Conal McCarthy, Ian Lochhead, Jenny May, Robyn Peers, Mark Stocker, Katherine Lochnan, Linda Tyler, Peter Simpson, Lara Strongman, Sarah Farrar, Roger Blackley, Chloe Cull, Karen Stevenson, Huhana Smith, Penny Allan, Caroline Turner, Anna-Marie White, Jonathan Mane-Wheoki.

[2] Towards this global liaison he worked tirelessly. See: Jonathan Mane-Wheoki: ‘Indigenous art and the idea of work art history: Maori perspectives from Aotearoa New Zealand’, keynote address, Art Association of Australia and New Zealand conference, Australian National University, Canberra, (2009); also: ‘Introduction: Indigeneity/Aboriginality, Art/Culture and Institutions’, Crossing Cultures: Conflict, Migration and Convergence. The Proceedings of the 32nd International Congress in the History of Art (Melbourne: The Meigunyah Press, 2009’ and ‘A Recentred World: Post-European/Pro-Indigenous Art from Aotearoa/New Zealand and Te Moananui-a-Kiwa/The South Pacific’, The Second Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 1996).

[3] See also her Annotated Bibliography, pp 253-278.

[4] Jonathan became a highly articulate advocate of non-Western art, confessing that he used to think that ‘Waterloo Bridge was the centre of the universe’ but came to realise that ‘everywhere was the centre.’

 


 

 


Cassandra Fusco is the Reviews Editor of takahē.