Honorary doctorate a surprise for renowned artist

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Renowned Ngāti Kahungunu artist Sandy Adsett says the conferral of his honorary doctorate in fine arts from Massey University was a big surprise. 

He accepted his honorary doctorate for 50 years of service in Māori art in Palmerston North.


"In terms of the cultural art, it's something for us to admire and see the beauty and understand what's the essence of those arts.  For us, we say our art carries a mauri, a spiritual connection, because it needs to relate to those tipuna that are in our meeting houses," says Adsett.


He attended what was known as Raupunga Native School before heading to Te Aute College for four years, he then began exhibiting in the mid 1960s.


"For me, I also was a practising artist and I enjoyed the indigenous art images that were Māori and so I wanted to engage with other indigenous cultures who have the same stories that they're trying to remember and present what's important to their environment, so it is a natural way of engagement," says Adsett.


He is 78-years-old now and says art has always been a natural part of his life.

Adsett continues to teach Māori visual art at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Hastings.


"The positive is that you make long term friends and your networks are ongoing.  They are available to our rangatahi to engage with but they need to do their own networks- we just give them the means to say these people would support our colleagues".


His traditional-meets-contemporary style uses Māori design such as puhoro, kowhaiwhai patterns and birds.