Toi Te Mana: An Indigenous History of Māori Art

Deidre Brown and Ngarino Ellis, with Jonathan Mane-Wheoki

Author: Deidre Brown and
Author: Ngarino Ellis, with
Format: Hardback
Pages: 616
Published: 7 November 2024
Specs: 30.0cm x 24.5cm
ISBN: 9781869409197
Expected release date is 7th Nov 2024

A landmark account in words and pictures of Māori art, by Māori art historians – from Polynesian voyaging waka to contemporary Māori artists.

He toi whakairo, he mana tangata.
Through artistic excellence, there is human dignity.

Toi Te Mana is a landmark account of Māori art from the time of the tūpuna (ancestors) to the present day.

In 600 pages and over 500 extraordinary images, this volume invites readers to climb on to the waka for a remarkable voyage – from ancestral weavers to contemporary artists at the Venice Biennale, from whare whakairo to film, and from Te Puea Hērangi to Michael Parekōwhai.

The authors explore a wide field of art practice: raranga (plaiting), whatu (weaving), moko (tattoo), whakairo (carving), rākai (jewellery), kākahu (textiles), whare (architecture), toi whenua (rock art), painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics, installation art, digital media and film. And they do so over a long time period – from the arrival of Pacific voyagers 800 years ago to contemporary artists in Aotearoa and around the world today. Through wide-ranging chapters alongside focused breakout boxes on individual artists, movements and events, Toi Te Mana is a waka eke noa – an essential book for anyone interested in te ao Māori.

Toi Te Mana is a Māori art history, written by Māori, given to the world.

Toitū te whenua, toitū te tikanga, ka ora ngā toi.
When we hold fast to our land and values, our art flourishes.



Toi Te Mana is an outstanding publication that brings to fruition the work of two exceptional Māori scholars and their visionary collaborator, the late Māori art historian Jonathan Mane-Wheoki. The book is not only a landmark in Māori art history, it challenges us to reconceive the entire narrative of art and modernity from the perspective of Indigenous cultures worldwide.’ — Peter Brunt, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington

‘This book is a comprehensive analysis that sets out to recalibrate the history of Māori art by rebalancing the gaps and Eurocentric focus of earlier writing. The format, with key chapters (kete) interspersed with breakout boxes focusing on specific artists and events, drives the kaupapa of the book forward, reinforcing a broadly chronological framework that nevertheless emphasises non-linearity, dynamism and change. The deployment of ancestral stories, chants and whakataukī to introduce chapters and sections draws together multiple strands to create a richly layered and relational landscape (whakapapa) for Māori arts. Ka mau te wehi! An outstanding contribution to Māori culture, arts and creativity – it is a great read.’ — Maia Nuku (Ngāi Tai), Curator Arts of Oceania, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Toi Te Mana is a bold and ambitious endeavour by our most experienced Māori art historians responding to a desperate need in Aotearoa New Zealand art education. A historical atlas encompassing the spectrum of Māori creativity, this work will certainly become a standard text of Māori art history and contribute to the global discourse on indigenous art histories in which Māori already hold a strong and distinctive position.’ — Anna-Marie White (Te Ātiawa), Toi Māori Aotearoa

Toi Te Mana is a historic and groundbreaking text. It is an invaluable tool for Indigenous arts globally, and represents “best practice” in the field. The research and findings will be central to those of my generation and our students as we craft an Indigenous art history.’ — Professor Nancy Mithlo, Gender Studies, UCLA, Los Angeles

Toi Te Mana is a cultural feat ruminating on the luxurious depth and breadth of Māori art. From waka to painting to bodies, Brown, Ellis and Mane-Wheoki expertly fill each kete with insights, histories and analysis. This is a one-in-a-generation book.’ — Lana Lopesi, University of Oregon

‘This book provides an Indigenous account of Māori art, authored by Māori art historians, employing art historical methods, while highlighting its status as one of the foremost global art traditions. The authors hold considerable esteem in our field, which is reflected in the originality and irrefutable scholarship of their work. Remarkably, they have integrated myriad aspects of whakapapa, generations of ancestral history, and worldwide collections into a unified and meticulously researched and referenced book. The work is admirable in every respect.’ — Jennifer J. Wagelie, Director of Cultural Development and Equity Initiatives, California State University, Sacramento



Deidre Brown (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) is a Māori art and architectural historian and professor of architecture at Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland. Her books include Māori Architecture: From Fale to Wharenui and Beyond (Raupo, 2009; Ngā Kupu Ora award winner and New Zealand Post Book Awards finalist), Introducing Maori Art (Reed, 2005), Tai Tokerau Whakairo Rākau: Northland Maori Wood Carving (Reed, 2003; NZSA Best First Book at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards), Te Puna: Māori Art from Te Tai Tokerau / Northland (Reed, 2007) with Ngarino Ellis, the multi-authored Art in Oceania: A New History (Thames & Hudson, 2012; Art Book Prize for best English language art book) and A New Zealand Book of Beasts: Animals in Our Culture, History and Everyday Life (Auckland University Press, 2013). She has curated several exhibitions and is a former Governor of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. Deidre is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi and a 2023 Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medallist – the Institute’s highest award.

Ngarino Ellis (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou) is an associate professor in art history at Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland. Her monograph A Whakapapa of Tradition: 100 Years of Ngāti Porou Carving, 1830–1930 (Auckland University Press, 2016) won several awards including the Judith Binney Best First Book at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and Best Māori Art Book at the Ngā Kupu Ora Awards: Celebrating Māori Books and Journalism, 2017. She co-edited Te Puna: Māori Art from Te Tai Tokerau / Northland (Reed, 2007) with Deidre Brown, and Te Ata: Māori Art from the East Coast, New Zealand (Reed, 2002) with Witi Ihimaera. Ngarino has also collaborated as a curator, including Whakawhanaungatanga: Connecting People and Taonga (Linden Museum, Stuttgart, 2022–24) with Dougal Austin, Awhina Tamarapa and Justine Treadwell, and Pūrangiaho: Seeing Clearly (Auckland Art Gallery, 2001) with Ngahiraka Mason and Kahutoi Te Kanawa. She has published on many aspects of Māori art history including moko, adornment, art crime and gender.

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki CNZM (1943–2014; Ngāpuhi, Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kurī) was an art historian specialising in Māori, New Zealand and European art. His academic career began at the University of Canterbury and included serving as Dean of Music and Fine Arts. In 2004, he became the Director of Art and Collection Services at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand. Five years later, he was appointed Professor and Head of the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. Notable service roles included being a Governor of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand and member of Te Waka Toi, the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand, International Council of the Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou and the Marsden Fund Council. Jonathan received an honorary LittD from the University of Canterbury in 2008 and the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi’s Pou Aronui Award in 2012 and was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2014 for services to the arts.


Cover image

Rangi Kipa and Zach Challies, Tiki Aahua, 2023
UV-cured polymer resin, mother of pearl, photograph by Sam Hartnett

This hei tiki is a joint work/experiment between Rangi Kipa and Zach Challies (School of Design Innovation, Victoria University of Wellington). Based on a 3D scan of an original Rangi Kipa whale tooth hei tiki, the material was produced using a program to allow voice prompts (karakia, words and names) to manipulate and move ahi/auahi (fire/smoke) expression patterns, then freeze them at a given point in the simulation. 

Such contemporary work is a statement about the ways in which whakapapa (genealogy) remains central to Māori identity but is actively reconfigured for the twenty-first century with the use of modern materials and technology.