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House Visits: Toi and Taonga

Indigenous art from around the world and whakapapa are the themes in this instalment of our feature series, going inside the bubble of leading NZ Creatives.


The days of visiting galleries and exhibitions are temporarily on hold. The lost opportunity to get motivation from walking through new spaces and soaking in different works is a void The Big Idea wants to help fill. 

Our ‘House Visits’ series takes you into the homes and working spaces of people in the creative world, to see what they have collected on their travels, what it means to them and what they’re using as inspiration inside their own four walls.

Graham Tipene - Auckland

My first opportunity in the arts world came in 2004 when I was asked to help design seven pieces to be made into clay mosaics alongside Tom Barter. 

Since then I have been part of many teams, great and small, to deliver art within the Tāmaki region and beyond. 

Currently, I am working on a few projects ranging from large bridges to small company logos. I like the challenge of changing mindsets around what it is to be a Māori artist with historic whakapapa connections to Tāmaki.

My goal is to help Auckland remember its past by designing its future, taking Auckland's historical narrative and using that to populate the city with pieces we can all enjoy and learn from.


Mum and Dad

Growing up in Orakei, we always had a wall dedicated to our tupuna. I lost my mum in 2014 and dad in 2017. I had these drawn up and framed so I could put them in my house as a reminder of where I come from. 

These are not my biological parents but raised me from birth. They will always be mum and dad to me.


Drum and Eagle Feather

I was given these taonga while travelling through Canada in 2004. The drum came first and the eagle feather after. I was told that a drum carrier must also have an eagle feather. In return, I gave my taiaha to thank my host for everything he had done for me over the seven-week tour. After six years, I finally painted the drum with the design you see in the photo.



I attended a Matariki exhibition in 2014. This piece was on the wall and every time I walked past I had to stop and admire it. At the end of the night, I had paid for the piece and collected it a few weeks after the exhibition ended. The artist is of Ngāti Kahu descent. My mother (in the first photo) and great grandmother both have whakapapa connections to Ngāti Kahu.



Graham Tipene.




Written by

The Big Idea Editor

8 Apr 2020

The Big Idea Editor