Johnson Witehira is an artist and designer of Tamaki (Ngāti Hinekura), Ngā Puhi (Ngai-tū-te-auru), Ngāti Haua and New Zealand European descent who has a calling. In his own words, Johnson’s goal is to “bring Māori visual culture back into the lives of Māori”.
With a design degree already under his belt, Johnson decided he wanted to be more than a Māori who designed; he wanted to be a ‘Māori Designer’. This motivated him to complete a PhD exploring traditional Māori carving, where he developed a platform for contemporary Māori design. Johnson’s focus is on approaching all his art and design work with a Māori world view and sensitivity to cultural knowledge.
This approach has led to a successful career. Combining traditional patterns with contemporary graphic design, Johnson’s work can been seen in print, typography, product, packaging and fashion design. In 2012 he won first place in a nationwide competition and had his work displayed in Times Square, New York.
In his presentation Johnson will be sharing his personal insights about being a Māori designer and contemporary design practice in New Zealand today. He will also explore some of his projects and talk about how his design ethos underpins them.