2016 marked thirty years since the founding of the institution that would become known as Whitireia
As part of celebrating the three decades of its history, Whitireia held a morning tea to honour the service of staff members who had been with the institution for 25-30 years. One of the recipients was Wally Clay who, you may recall, had been at Whitireia the longest of all, helping build the initial prefabs in 1985.
Other members of staff were rewarded for their long service were Trish Brimblecombe, Nicki Keen and George Packard. Addressing the assembled staff, chief executive Chris Gosling spoke to the importance of people such as as the recipients and staff at Whitireia in general, quoting a favourite whakatauākī :
He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Visual Arts and Design marked 30 years of Whitireia with an exhibition at Pātaka Art + Museum called Ahi Kā: Keep the Fires Burning. Coinciding with the 2016 graduate exhibition Toast, Ahi Kā brought together work by Whitireia alumni from across three decades, with artists who had studied in the original National Diploma in Craft Design joined by more recent graduates of the Bachelor of Applied Arts (Visual Arts & Design) and the Graduate Diploma in Applied Arts.
A quote in the exhibition catalogue spoke of the symbolism of the title Ahi Kā, highlighting its connection to Ngāti Toa, and to Te Puoho Katene, who had been kaumātua for the Visual Arts department in its early years. "Ahi Kā is the name of the kōwhaiwhai rafter pattern designed by Te Puoho Katene QSM, Ngāti Toa iwi, in the Takapūwāhia marae in Elsdon, Porirua. It is symbolised by the cooking fires of the kainga held in the hand. It also means those that stay behind to guard the fire. This symbol was first used at a tribal wānanga and was supported by the words: Ahi mō te ao. The mythological story of Maui securing fire for the world was the inspiration for this symbol."
The artists represented in Ahi Kā were Dwain Aiolupotea, Ranea Aperahama, Vivien Atkinson, Becky Bliss, Ellen Coup, Sam Dollimore, Nik Hanton, James Harcourt, Reremoana Hilliard, Patrice Kaikilekofe, Ela To'omaga-Kaikilekofe, Jack Karifi, Jennifer Laracy, Hanne Eriksen Mapp, Owen Mapp, Neke Moa, Anya Mowll, James Molnar, Tracey Morgan, Kivani Moriarty, Alison Murray, Eric Ngan, Lindsay Park, Amelia Pascoe, Mel Phillips, Sarah Read, Mieke Roy, Sandra Schmid, Moniek Schrijer, Clare Smith, Nadine Smith, Wi Taepa, Cleo Thorpe-Ngata, Matthew McIntyre Wilson, Maryjane Winiata and Keri-Mei Zagrobelna.
The opening of Ahi Kā provided a celebration of another kind with around 50 artists donating pieces of work to create a sumptuous instant private collection for their colleague/tutor/dear friend, the inspirational Vivien Atkinson. Vivien began her time with Whitireia as a student on the Bachelor of Applied Arts (Visual Arts & Design) in 2005 and upon graduating returned over the years as an artist in residence, fellow, and possibly other titles under which she selflessly contributed to the visual arts programme. The original invitation for contributions listed the ways in which she had had an influence at Whitireia, including developing and delivering lectures, sharing her extensive art knowledge in tutorials and seminars, providing relief coverage that enabled tutors to fulfil research requirements, participating in formatives and feedback sessions, one-to-one mentoring and student support, and providing a continuing source of inspiration through the pursuit of her own profound practice.
A catalogue of the Labour of Love gifted to Vivien can be found online at labouroflove2.com. The artists who contributed were Vanessa Arthur, Renee Bevan, Becky Bliss, Tara Brady, Nadene Carr, Fran Carter, Fiona Cristeller, Karren Dale, Peter Deckers, Caitlin Devoy, Marie Enslin, Sharon Fitness, Hilda Gascard, Phillipa Gee, Nik Hanton, Jenny Hartley, Suni Hermon, Benjamin Lignel, Pravu Mazumdar, Kelly McDonald, Matthew McIntyre Wilson, Julia Middleton, Jhana Millers, Neke Moa, Birgit Moffatt, Amelia Pascoe, Renee Pearson, Grace Piper, Sarah Read, Spring Rees, Beverly Rhodes, Sandra Schmid, Moniek Schrijer, Clare Smith, Nadine Smith, Chloe Rose Taylor, Caroline Thomas, Cleo Thorpe-Ngata, Nina Van Duynhoven, Bettina van Hulle, Sarah Walker-Holt, Raewyn Walsh, Molly Wright, Amy Wang, Jessica Winchcombe, Jun Xie, Kathryn Yeats and Keri-Mei Zagrobelna.