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Famous Faces in the Arts

Murray Ball.

Murray was born in Feilding in Janurary 1939. His early school years were spent in Hastings, Lower Hutt and Sydney. In 1948 the Ball family emigrated to South Africa and Murray attended Kearnsey College, Durban and Parktown Boys’ High School, Johannesburg, where he played rugby for the First XV and was South African Under 17 Pole Vault record holder.

On leaving school in 1958 Murray returned to New Zealand hoping to become an All Black like his father, Nelson ‘Kelly’ Ball. He played for the Manawatu representative side, was an All Black trialist and he played for the Junior All Blacks against the British Lions in 1959.

After a brief stint as a reporter he became staff cartooonist on the Manawatu Daily Times, and then the Dominion Newspapers before returning to South Africa. There he met his future wife Pam. They married in England in 1964 and settled in New Zealand where Murray taught at Mercury Bay District High School for three years.

From 1969 to 1974 the family lived in Somerset, England where Murray developed his cartoon strip Stanley. It was the longest running cartoon strip in the prestigious humourous magazine Punch. He also did illustration work for the children’s comics Dandy and Beano and he drew the cartoon strips Bruce The Barbarian for the Labour Weekly and All The King’s Comrades for Punch.

In 1974 Murray and Pam, sons Mason and Gareth and daughter Tanya, returned to New Zealand and moved to their Gisborne property in Valley Road. Here he created the cartoon strip Footrot Flats that became widely syndicated throughout New Zealand, Australia and Scandinavia. The cartoon’s huge success resulted in the full-length animated movie The Dogs Tale being made in 1985. Murray drew Footrot Flats for 25 years and then retired Wal and The Dog.

Murray now writes and illustrates satrical books; amongst the most recent are The Sisterhood, The Flowering of Adam Budd and Tarzan, Gene Kelly And Me.

Murray’s interests include painting, cinema, trees and golf.


Witi Ihimaera.

Born in Gisborne in 1944, Witi Ihimaera's tribal connections link him to most New Zealand tribes. The eldest of eight children, Ihimaera was educated at Te Karaka District High School, Church College, Hamilton and Gisborne Boys' High School.

After studying at Auckland University from 1963 to 1966, he returned to Gisborne as a cadet journalist at the Gisborne Herald. He completed his BA at Victoria University in Wellington in 1970.

Witi Ihimaera began writing seriously in 1969. The Listener magazine accepted his first story, The Liar, the following year. In 1972 Prime Minister Norman Kirk read Ihimaera's first book and decided he would be valuable as a diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served with the Ministry until 1989.

In 1975 Ihimaera produced a film script and booklet, Maori. In the same year he also took up a Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago. In 1982 he received a writing Fellowship at Victoria University.

Ihimaera's publications are often the products of intense periods of writing. In the early 1970s he completed Pounamu Pounamu, Tangi and Whanau, all while based in London. A further period of writing began in 1975 with the publication of The New Net Goes Fishing and Into The World Of Light.

While at Victoria University Ihimaera immersed himself in the histories of his home community, Waituhi, near Gisborne. With "the past placed firmly in front of me", he wrote the immensely popular The Matriarch in 1986. The following year, based in New York, he wrote The Whale Rider in the space of three weeks, followed by Dear Miss Mansfield, a Maori perspective of Katherine Mansfield's famous stories.

In 1984 he co-produced and was the librettist for an opera Waituhi; the life of the village.

The novel Bulibasha: King of the Gypsies won the 1995 Montana Book award. In 1996 Ihimaera's writing moved in a new direction when he wrote a gay novel Nights in the Garden of Spain.

From the start, Ihimaera saw writing as a valuable opportunity to express in print his experience of being Maori. He sees himself as Maori in the world and thinks of "the world I'm in as being Maori". He was awarded the QSM in the 1986 for public services.

Witi Ihimaera has two daughters. He is a professor of English at Auckland University, he continues to write and he serves on several artists' and writers' organisations.


David James.

An internationally renowned concert pianist, David James was born in Gisborne in 1947. He attended Central School, Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Boy’s High Schools.

His family was musical and David’s maternal Grandmother insisted her grandson take piano lessons. His piano tutors were Janice Stevens, Mollie Skillen, Jack Roderick and Audrey- Gibson Foster- all resident in Gisborne.

During this period, in addition to success in local competions, David’s first major success was the 1961 Auckland Junior Piano Concerto Prize, for which he performed the Mozart Concerto in B flat minor. He was 13 years old. Another notable win was the Auckland Star Piano Concerto Prize in 1964, for which he played the Mendelssohn Concerto in G minor.

David then attended Auckland University, studying piano under Janetta Mcstay at the University’s Conservatorium of music. While there he performed concertos with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Christchurh Civic Orchestra, the Auckland Regional Orchestra (then the Auckland Symphonia), the National Youth Orchestra and the Auckland Youth Symphomy. In 1970 he won the university’s annual music prize for Excellence in Music. In addition David gave many solo recitals throughout New Zealand, including Gisborne.

During 1971, a Queen Elizabeth Arts Council Award enabled further study at the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore, USA with the acclaimed American Pianist Leon Fisher. Awarded first prize in the Peabody Concerto Contest, and major recognition in the University of Maryland Piano Competition, return engagements to New Zealand with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra were frequent during the 1970s and 80s.

David married an American concert pianist Robelyn Schrade. She is from a large family of talented musicans and in March 1982, David, Robelyn and her parents performed here in Gisborne.

Their eight hands played on two pianos and the concert’s profits went to the purchase of a grand piano for the soon-to-be-opened Lawson’s Field Theatre. David and Robelyn have also played here on other occasions.

David tutors at the Manhatten School of Music in New York. In the summer he and Robelyn participate professionally as assistant directors and performers at James-Scrade family’s "Sevenars" festival in Massachusetts, recognised by Time Magazine as one of America’ most successful small festivals.

David’s daughter Lynelle and son Christopher are talented pianists and Christopher is also a fine cellist. They both perform with their parents and extended family in America and in 2001 Lynelle played with her father in New Zealand.


Pineamine Taiapa.

Pineamine Taiapa was born in Tikitiki on the East Coast in June 1901. He was adopted at birth by a bachelor uncle who wanted a child to whom he could pass on his traditional knowledge. Pine was educated at Te Aute College. He then farmed family land at Tikitiki and worked as a surveyor's chainman. Pine enjoyed playing rugby; from 1921 to 1923 he played for the Povery Bay, East Coast and Maori All Blacks teams.

In 1924, a respected carver, Hone Ngatoto arrived in Tikitiki to work on the Maori war memorial church and stayed with the Taiapa family. Pine was keen to carve but he had to wait six months before he was even allowed to handle a chisel - his job was carrying and fetching for the old man.

In 1927 Sir Apirana Ngata founded a School of Maori Arts and Pine was amongst its first students. He swiftly mastered all he was taught, yet felt something was missing. He then realised he was looking for carving methods associated with the adze.

After taking advice form elders, Pine adopted adzing techniques and they realised his skills. Swift flowinglines instead of painstakingly chiselled detail meant that he could carve better and faster. His fine carving gained a formidable reputation and between 1927 and 1940 he worked on 64 traditional houses around New Zealand, including the centennial house at Waitangi. Pine strongly encouraged the communities to learn the skills of their ancestors.

In 1940 Pine Taiapa enlisted in the 28th New Zealand (Maori) Battalion. He was promoted to Captain in October 1942.

Pine Taiapa stopped full-time carving about 1951 and returned to sheep farming. He continued to carve part-time, working on 39 traditional houses between 1946 and 1971. Thus the influence can be seen in over 100 houses throughout New Zealand.

Pine also taught carving and tukutuku, wrote fiction, articles on his work, compiled meticulous whakapapa books, and he was held in high esteem for his oratory.

Pine Taiapa died at Tikitiki in February 1972 aged 70. He is buried at Tikitiki.


Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Kiri Te Kanawa was born in Gisborne in March 1944. She was educated at St Mary’s Primary School in Gisborne and St Mary’s College in Auckland.

Her mother soon recognised her daughter’s vocal talent and was determined that Kiri would become an important singer. She entered her into musical competitions in Gisborne and elsewhere and then moved the family to Auckland when Kiri was 12 years old for her voice to be further developed. Kiri eventually became a pupil of the legendary singing teacher Sister Mary Leo. By the time she was twenty she had won major prizes and had also embarked upon a recording career.

At the age of 22 Kiri went to study at the London Opera Centre. Her first major success was in 1971, as the lead soprano, the Countess, in Mozart’s The Marriage. Unknown in the world of opera she was a huge overnight success and she rapidly became an important figure in the leading opera houses of the world.

Kiri married Australian Des Park in 1967 and he became her manager. They adopted two children.

Kiri’s soprano voice demonstrates great ease and beauty in the upper range. She has a large repertoire of classical items, folk music, show songs and contemporary Maori music. She has recorded extensively.

In 1981, as soloist at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, Kiri sang to a direct telecast audience estimated to be over 600 million people worldwide. 1990 saw another record when Kiri’s outdoor concert in Auckland attracted a crowd of 140,000. She continues to give concerts in New Zealand; she sang in Gisborrne on 1 January 2000 to welcome the first dawn of the new millennium, a concert broadcast to television worldwide.

Created a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1982, Kiri Te Kanawa has been conferred with honary degrees from many universities in England, America and New Zealand. She was awarded the prestigios Order of New Zealand in 1995.

Dame Kiri and her husband are divorced. Still a New Zealander, she lives in London but enjoys visiting her Bay of Isalnds, New Zealand property.


John Walsh

Painter John Walsh (Te Aitanga a Hauiti) was born at Tolaga Bay in 1954 and developed his interest in art at Gisborne Boys’ High School.

He gained early attention for his 1970s series of detailed, realist portraits of elders and identities from the Tolaga Bay East Coast area, including a twenty- metre portrait of Tolaga Bay itself.

In 1988 he travelled to the United States to contribute in the international Pathfinder Mural Project in New York City and upon his return was appointed exhibitions officer at Gisborne Museum and Arts Centre. During this tenure Walsh continued to paint and exhibit, mostly from the eccentric Number Nine studio he had in an historic main street building.

In 1993 he and his family shifted to Wellington where he was appointed curator of contemporary Maori art at the Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa.

Walsh continued to produce his own work and exhibited nationally, notably with the Ko wai te Tekoteko kei runga series (1996) – from which a work was acquired by the Museum of New Caledonia – and 1997s Tipi Haere series.

During the showing of the latter series Walsh’s then Auckland dealer, Archill Gallery, said although the artist’s work had evolved in style and medium, it "consistently investigates the less unpredictable and seductive area where our (Maori) cultural identity is forged".

In 2000 the dark sense of humour seen in much of Walsh’s work found another outlet when he wrote and illustrated the ‘grim’ fairy tale Nanny Mango, about a bully and a cannibal who gets her comeuppance when the family puts a makutu (curse) on her.

On commission in 2001 he created works for Wellington’s City Gallery’s high-profile Parihaka exhibition in which he told the story of Parihaka from a contemporary viewpoint while incorporating images and characters from the late 19th century and Maori mythology. A gallery spokesman said his paintings could be, at once, lyrical and grotesque, "the thin washes of imagery capturing both dreams and nightmares".

In 2001 Walsh solidified his status with a sell-out exhibition at Auckland’s John Leech Gallery.

John Walsh likes to maintain strong links with the Tairawhiti Region where his parents still live. He recently (2002) returned to Gisborne to tutor a summer arts school painting course and has been invited to contribute works to the TOI Hauiti exhibition, a celebration of the Te Aitanga a Hauiti people based largely around the Tairawhiti Museum collection.