13–16 SEPTEMBER 2018


Robert Jahnke's KAOKAO is a double cross over 2m high and 4m wide, constructed from steel, aluminium, mirror and neon, that references tukutuku patterning, the haka stance, and the commonly-used double-x signatures on on Te Tiriti o Waitangi. As an inclusion of Installation Contemporary, it partakes in the dialogue with the upcoming 250th anniversary of Cook's landfalls in New Zealand and Australia. It is a challenge (haka), an agreement (XX), and presents a mirror for us to view ourselves against the backdrop of 250 years.

Inside Carriageworks, the PAULNACHE booth will present two suites of Bob Jahnke's immersive light box works. Inside each, the infinity-mirrored Maori motif descend back into the darkness like the lines of whakapapa, receding yet never losing their brightness. Inside Carriageworks, site of the first pay-parity between colonists and indigenous workers, the presence of the past will shine like a bright future. 

The rationale for sets of three relates to chromatic symbolism. In the red, white and blue associated with the patiki series the Union Jack is referenced in relation to the oppression of the millennial movements of Te Kooti, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Rua Kenana. Break them up and the polemic intention is neutered. With the red, blue and yellow Taimana set, the Maori epochal phases of Te Kore, Te Po and Te Ao Marama are referenced – break up the sets and all you have is a neon work divorced from its narrative integrity.



View work

Download ATA Catalogue [PDF 3.2MB]

Ata at Sydney Contemporary Catalogue [download on]

View Bob Jahnke's KAOKAO sculpture lights up Wellington waterfront

Bob Jahnke: ATA: a third reflection at PATAKA Arts and Museum


Photography by Jacquie Manning, courtesy of Sydney Contemporary, Carriageworks, © the artist and PAULNACHE



Robert Jahnke was born in Waipiro Bay (East Coast of the North Island) in 1951 of Ngai Taharora, Te Whanau a Iritekura, Te Whanau a Rakiroa o Ngati Porou decent.

Recently appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2017 New Year Honours list by

Her Majesty the Queen in recognition of services to Māori art and education, Jahnke is responsible for setting up the first Maori Visual Arts degree in a university: a Bachelor of Maori Visual Arts in 1995, a Postgraduate Diploma of Maori Visual Arts and a Master of Maori Visual Arts in 1999. He contributes to Maori Development through his teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level, his research into traditional Maori carving and his academic writing straddling art education, contemporary and traditional Maori art, and identity politics.

He is represented in a number of major collections including The Sir James Wallace Collection, Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland City Art Gallery, Jenny Gibbs, Kevin Roberts, and the Chartwell Trust among significant representation in within Private Collections both in New Zealand and abroad.

Robert Jahnke is represented by PAULNACHE.

Robert Jahnke, KAOKAO, PAULNACHE.jpg


Installation Contemporary presents an exhibition of innovative, site-specific and interactive installations curated by Nina Miall. 

KAOKAO is a tukutuku chevron pattern found in Maori tribal houses that signifies fortitude and virility. Compositionally it aligns with the haka stance assumed as a prelude to war or in celebration of victory. The KAOKAO chevron configuration is created by bringing together two crosses (X’s) with a bilateral inversion of the chevron to create the ‘K’ figure associated with Polynesian art. It is a motif that appears as an inverted ‘W’ pattern representing rows of headless humans, elbows on knees, on Austral Islands adzes. It is no coincidence that the double cross also aligns with many of the Maori signatures on the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.

KAOKAO continues Robert Jahnke’s engagement with transformative tukutuku (tribal house lattice work), conditioned in its first showing at headland Sculpture on the Gulf on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf by an engagement with site (the Whetumatarau land block on the Island) and tangata whenua (Ngati Paoa). It was conceived as a cultural beacon to create a viewing portal that framed a heritage site on the Whetumatarau headland to remind people of a history of land alienation and the two waves of settlement on Waiheke Island: Maori and European.

The apolitical ground plan will be used for Installation Contemporary at Sydney Contemporary, September 2018.



Saturday 15 September, 2.30PM – 3.30PM

For Māori people Te Kore (The Great Nothingness), Te Pō (The Great Darkness) and Te Ao Mārama (The World of Light and Life) are recalled as conceptual states of being that traverse the notion of time.  Artist Robert Jahnke and his recent works ponder Māori creation narratives as a way to discuss and locate ones place in the world; in the order of things, and his use of coloured neon and mirrored reflections create spatial readings that are multi-dimensional and seemingly endless.

Speakers include Nigel Borell, Māori Art Curator, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Robert Jahnke, Professor of Māori Visual Arts, Massey University.

Artist talks and times: