Robert earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design in 1976 and his first-class Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design in 1978, both from Auckland University. In 1980, he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Animation from the California Institute of the Arts. He is currently professor and head of the School of Māori Studies/coordinator of Māori Visual Arts at Massey University in Palmerston North and a doctoral candidate there.
Dedicated to producing students who are not only artists but also theorists capable of supporting the growth of the Māori art movement in New Zealand, he has introduced at Massey a Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts program that includes Te Reo Māori (Māori language) and Tikanga Māori (Māori protocol) as integral components.
He is a leading Māori academic and a pioneer in contemporary Māori art; his works have a creative vitality, often with a political edge. Symbols in his work, such as hatchets and classical columns, reference icons of European domination and oppression.
He has received numerous awards, participated in many solo and group exhibitions including “Kiwa-Pacific Connections” (2003) in Vancouver, Canada, and been included in many publications. His major public works include window and door designs for the Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa, wall reliefs for the High Court Building and Bowen House in Wellington and the sculpture installation at the Sky Casino entrance in Auckland.
Excerpt from Manawa—Pacific Heartbeat, 2005.