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Inspiration flows through new Fred Graham exhibition

25 May 2022

A powerful exhibition bringing together the sculptures of world-renowned Tainui artist Fred Graham ONZM is now open at Hamilton’s Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato.

Katohia He Wai Moou, Katohia He Wai Mooku: Waikato River works by Fred Graham has been curated by members of Waikato Museum’s Visitor Experience team. The artworks on display are on long term loan from the Waikato River Authority and relate to historic sites along the Waikato awa.

“We knew as soon as we saw Fred Graham’s works that we wanted to emphasise the relationship between the artworks and te awa o Waikato, which we work alongside daily,” says Kahurangiariki Smith (Tainui, Te Arawa, Mataatua, Takitimu, Horouta) who co-curated the exhibition along with Tinei Mulipola Faiaoga (Luatuanu’u, Manono Tai i Haamoa), Norma Stewart (Waikato, Ngaati Mahuta, Ngaai Tamanuhiri, Ngaati Kahungunu ki te Wairoa), and Te Mihinga Tuterangiwhiu (Ngaati Hikairo, Ngaati Maahanga).

“The artworks are so striking on their own, we’re all feeling so grateful to have had the opportunity to collectively showcase these taonga.”

Rich with symbolism, the exhibition tracks the length of Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest river from its beginnings at Mount Ruapehu to the powerful currents rushing past the Museum, and onwards to the sea at Te Puuaha o Waikato (Port Waikato).

“Having our rangatahi in the Visitor Experience team curate this exhibition under the guidance of experienced and respected curator Maree Mills (Ngaati Tuuwharetoa) has been a wonderful opportunity for both the team and the Museum itself,” says Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts.

“Rarely do people in visitor-facing roles get the chance to develop curatorial experience in their own museums, and this team of amazing women has made the most of it - right through to thinking about associated programmes, and how other taonga under our kaitiakitanga can support Fred Graham’s narrative about the Waikato awa.”

“I hope we are able to develop further opportunities across our Waikato Museum team in the future.”

Born in the South Waikato town of Arapuni in 1928, Fred Graham is a Tainui kaumatua of Ngaati Korokii Kahukura descent. He is a world-renowned carver and sculptor, and an inspiring mentor who has shared his knowledge and skills with many Aotearoa New Zealand artists.

Graham’s work integrates Maaori mythology and art practices with Western modernism. Alongside artists such as Ralph Hotere, Paratene Matchitt, and Arnold Wilson, he is recognised as one of the primary proponents of the Contemporary Maaori Art Movement which emerged in the 1960s and 70s.

In 2018, Graham received the Arts Foundation Icon Award and was named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to Maaori art. As well as significant public sculptures displayed throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, Graham’s work has been exhibited extensively both here and internationally. He continues to mentor young sculptors and artists from his Waikato home.

Katohia He Wai Moou, Katohia He Wai Mooku: Waikato River works by Fred Graham is open from Wednesday 25 May 2022. Open hours are 10am to 5pm daily and entry is free.



Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato uses double vowels in te reo Maaori to represent a long vowel sound as it is the preference of the Waikato–Tainui iwi. Artist names and other titles are shown in their original form.

Image credit: Te Puuaha o Waikato (Port Waikato) by Fred Graham (b. 1928). Kauri, swamp kauri, paua shell, custom wood, 2012. Courtesy of the Waikato River Authority.