Robert Jahnke

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1951
Ngāi Taharora, Te Whānau a Iritekura, Te Whānau a Rakairo o Ngāti Porou, Māori

For King & Country

  • Purchased 1994
  • Reproduced with permission
  • Mixed media
  • 1200 x 380mm
  • 94/37
  • 1994

As well as having their practical uses, axes were one of the things that New Zealand's early European settlers used to barter with Māori for land. Robert Jahnke here makes them a symbol of aggression and conquest. The chess piece - a king - also refers to the country's colonial history and the power of the British Crown. Jahnke uses found and manufactured items to make powerful visual metaphors. Although he is an advocate of bi-culturalism, Jahnke often uses his work to explore injustices done to Māori. Jahnke was born in Waipiro Bay in the Bay of Islands. He holds degrees in Industrial and Graphic Design from the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, and a Masters degree in Film Graphics and Experimental Film Animation from the California Institute of Arts. Jahnke heads the Mäori visual art programme at Massey University. His public commissions include work for Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand and he has exhibited extensively since 1982.