Johnson Witehira

Artist, Designer and Academic ∙ IDIA and Waahi Wairua

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Johnson Witehira is an artist, designer and academic of Tamahaki and Ngāi Tū-te-auru descent. He is the co-founder of both Indigenous Design and Innovation Aotearoa (IDIA) and Waahi Wairua.
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Since completing his doctorate in Māori Visual Art (2013), Johnson has been on a mission to bring Māori culture into all aspects of New Zealand life. He has led the development of Māori design for some of New Zealand's most prominent organisations: The Auckland City Council, TVNZ, The Auckland International Airport, and Waka Kotahi (The New Zealand Transport Authority). Other significant design projects include developing the first set of Māori alphabet blocks, co-designing the PAKU gardening tools for children and developing the first functional Māori-specific typeface.
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As a contemporary Māori artist, his artworks have featured in significant galleries within Aotearoa and internationally. For example, in 2012 works from Witehira's exhibition Ko Aotearoa Tēnei (2012) were exhibited across 34 screens in Times Square New York, in the first-ever synchronised digital content display. While in 2015, the Talente Munich Art and Design Fair displayed his Land of Tara series. More recently, he has been commissioned to create a new artwork to feature at Nuit Blanche 2022, the largest contemporary art event in North America.
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As an academic, Witehira's focus has been on decolonised approaches to teaching art and design. He has presented this topic throughout New Zealand and internationally. His design projects and writing on indigenous design have been published in Visible Language, The Graphic Design Reader (Bloomsbury), AIGA Eye on Design, Novum Magainze and Monocle.
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