The winner of an inaugural Māori portraiture award says he is finally ready to call himself an artist.
Bodie Friend from Manurewa Auckland was announced today as the winner of the first Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture award for "Nana" - a captivating photograph of his great-uncle Pat Kingi.
Bodie, whose whakapapa iwi affiliations include Waikato, Ngāti Hikairo, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Apakura, Ngāti Pūkenga, Tapuika, and Ngāti Porou, said he was completely "mindblown" by the win.
While always a creative person with a particular interest in photography, the father-of-three had never considered himself an artist until shortlisted for the portraiture award.
He was "overwhelmed and humbled" to have his work shown alongside artists he admired at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata.
"I look around and a lot of these artists I follow on Instagram, and they inspire me, so it's cool to be here alongside them," Friend said.
"That alone was really cool."
Friend's work is among those of 50 finalists that comprise an exhibition at the New Zealand Portrait gallery Te Pūkenga Whakata in Shed 11 on Wellington's waterfront.
The exhibition opened today following the award ceremony, after which Kiingi Tuheitia led the winner and runner up to the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaa and opened it with an official blessing.
In its first year, the Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award – a partnership between the Office of the Kiingitanga and the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata – attracted a total of 128 entries.
Other works featured in the exhibition include portraits with whakairo (carving), raranga (weaving), photography, ceramics and oil painting, by artists from as far north as Whangarei and as south as Otago.
Launched in honour of Kiingi Tuheitia, the award is a partnership between Kiingitanga and the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata.
It tasked emerging Māori artists with creating a piece of art in any medium that depicted tupuna (ancestors) to which they had whakapapa connection.
The subject of Friend's work is his great uncle Pat Kingi, kaumātua at Horahora Marae in Rangiriri - known affectionately by whānau as "Nana Pat".
Friend captured the portrait the weekend before Kingi's 88th birthday, snapping a candid twinkle from his great uncle as they discussed whakapapa.
"I must have been telling a joke, trying to break the ice and he smirked a little bit and I took the photo and thought, that's what I wanted," he said.
"I took loads of photos but I just kept coming back to this one because it made me smile."
Pat Kingi had been a key driver in Friend learning about and connecting with distant whakapapa, and he saw his photography as a chance to capture whānau and their legacy.
"It had always been on my heart to take photos of whānau and just people in general, just to capture their personality," he said.
"What I love about photography and art in general is each piece shares a history and a past, but also in that moment I got to share that moment with him."
"And then it also creates a legacy for whānau that can look back on that."
The power of reconnecting with whakapapa through art had been reinforced by being in the presence of other artists' tupuna in the exhibition, he said.
"When you drive down to the marae and spend time with your family it makes the connections richer - whānau isn't just names on a paper, it's people, it's stories, it's smirks in a photo."
His win - which includes a $20,000 cash prize - has instilled a sense of responsibility to inspire other emerging Māori artists.
Artist Lisa Reihana - one of three judges of the Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture award - said it had been a "daunting process" to whittle down the entries to those shortlisted for the exhibition.
"It's not just the images on the wall, it's the statement that goes with it," she said.
"That's a very important part of this exhibition, the opportunity for Māori to look back at their tupuna."
"There was a lot of really heroic stories, sad stories and all sorts of personal histories came about from the portraits."
Although all artworks were captivating, she said there was something about Friend's "Nana" that drew the judges in.
"It's almost like a traditional piece of portraiture – there's a beautiful central image of Nana Pat. It's really humble and there's something lovely about his expression.
"It's got a very narrow depth of field and it's quite stripped back – there's nothing behind him but there's these two plaids going on – he's dressed in a way that … there's care, and there's something quite lovely about that."
She said the image of Nana Pat was one of 50 portraits in the exhibition which filled the room with their big personalities.
"You really get a sense of the personalities in this room ... there is quite a life scale of the paintings here so do really get a sense that there's a whole bunch of people in here looking at each other and talking to each other."
"It's a wonderful show, it's got a wonderful theme at the base of it - to think about other people either past or present - and it really sites it to here in Aotearoa."
The runner-up prize of $2500 went to Te Haunui Tuna for a digital drawing and video called "Survival".
The exhibition will run from May 28 to August 15, after which it will tour nationally.