John Bevan Ford

Ngāti Raukawa

1930 - 2005

John Bevan Ford was born in Christchurch and was educated at Wellington Boys’ College and Hutt Valley High School. He attended Wellington Training College from 1949-50 spending his third year in Dunedin training as an art specialist. From 1952-1969 he taught as a professional arts adviser to schools in the Wellington area, in Taranaki, in Southland, and in Waikato. He took up an appointment as Lecturer in Art at Hamilton Teachers’ College from 1970-73 and from 1973-74 he received a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council grant to work as an artist. Ford was appointed Senior Lecturer in Māori Arts at Massey University and continued in this position until 1987. From 1988 to the present he has been working as a professional artist. He received his initial Māori art training with the other Māori arts specialists from master carver Pine Taiapa of Tikitiki. He assisted in the establishment of the Māori Artists and Writers’ Association (Nga Puna Waihanga) in 1973. Ford exhibited his art work widely throughout New Zealand, Australia, USA and England; his work is held in European galleries, the National Art Gallery of Australia and in selected New Zealand collections including New Plymouth’s Taranaki Museum which has the largest collection of his art work in the country. His work is also held in private collections in Italy, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, USA, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hungary, Australia and New Zealand. In 1985 Ford won the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts Williams Art Award. In 1995 he was invited to do a series of lectures at the British Museum in conjunction with his solo exhibition at the Museum. The lectures were focused on the theme Te Aitanga a Kiwa: The progeny of Kiwa - a collection of Ford’s work based on the Pacific Rim. In 1995 Ford also presented his work in the USA at the Port Washington Library, Firehouse Gallery, Nassau Community College, the State University of Oregon and Portland, the Museum of National History in New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 1998 Ford was an artist in residency at the British Museum coinciding with the museum’s exhibition of their collection of Māori taonga and exhibition of contemporary Māori art. Ford wrote non-fiction articles, book reviews and music reviews which have been published in various journals including the Evening Standard and Landfall. He wrote a poem about the Tainui landing at Kawhia which was presented with a painting he gave to Rangiatea Church.

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence and phone conversation with John Bevan Ford, 5 Dec. 1992, and 14 Aug. 1998.


  • "The Carved Meeting House, Parewahawaha." New Zealand Arts Horizon Autumn 1978: 6-7.
  • A description of the Parewahawaha meeting house.
  • "Māori Art for Children." New Zealand Arts Horizon Autumn 1978: 11.
  • Ford writes that this article was written "in response to teachers wanting material on Māori art for the classroom."
  • "Warea Carving 1976." Journal of Polynesian Society 88.4 (1979): 433-459.
  • Ford provides a detailed description of a pae pae which was discovered by Barbara Donald at Warea on November 7, 1976, and he discusses the North Taranaki style of carving.
  • "The Kapiti Paintings." Landfall 37 (1983): 296-297.
  • This article is accompanyied by photographs of eight of Ford’s paintings. The Landfall notes state that the article is "[a] statement by the artist written for a display at Otaki, and addressed to members of the Ngāti Raukawa Ki Kapiti tribe from which he is descended." Ford discusses the imagery of his paintings, which portray different aspects of his ancestors’ life in and around Kapiti.
  • "The Tenth Annual Hui of the Māori Artists and Writers Society." Landfall 37 (1983): 293-296.
  • On the occasion of the tenth hui of the Māori Artists and Writers’ Society held at Tutaki Marae at Te Kaha in 1983, Ford reflects on the theme of the hui "Ten Years to the Planting of the Flax". He also gives an overview of the highlights of the hui and considers some of the issues facing contemporary Māori artists in their incorporation of traditional and contemporary art forms.
  • Introduction. Māori Artists of the South Pacific. Ed. Katerina Mataira. Raglan, N.Z.: Nga Puna Waihanga/New Zealand Māori Artists & Writers Soc, 1984. 9.
  • Photography by Kees Sprengers. Ford discusses a new generation of Māori artists whom he states "represent the pioneers of a new consciousness, single warriors in a battle for new creative directions, who came together to support each other at a time of cultural insecurity."
  • "Training Needs for Curators of Māori Material Culture." AGMANZ Journal 16.4 (1985): 12-13.
  • Ford provides "a collage of lists, ideas, statements and suggestions" on the prerequisites for appointing Māori curators for the proposed Pacific Cultural Centre and he outlines the skills which should be taught in curator training programmes.
  • "1988 Conference: John Bevan Ford." AGMANZ Journal 19.2 (1988): 20-22.
  • Excerpts of Ford’s report to the 1988 AGMANZ Conference, which was initially presented to Dorota C. Starzecka, Museum of Mankind, London. The new developments in the management of the Māori role in New Zealand museums and galleries have prompted Ford to articulate "a series of statements that reflect and partially describe Māori attitudes, past and present that impinge on the presentation of Māori work." Ford discusses the connections between te wairua Māori and Māori art, and notes key issues to be considered in exhibiting Māori taonga.
  • "E koe ano!" Now See Hear! Art, Language and Translation. Eds. Ian Wedde and Gregory Burke. Wellington, N.Z.: Victoria UP for the Wellington City Art Gallery, 1990. 111-119.
  • A detailed discussion of Māori art in which Ford speaks of the adaptation of Māori art, abstraction, ideas hidden within art forms, whakapapa, and dualities.
  • "All Pervasive Art." John Bevan Ford. Resurgence 170 (1995): 35-37.
  • This article was written in support of a series of illustrations of Ford’s work. Ford provides "an autobiographical statement about his life, whakapapa and his art work." Unsighted.
  • Other

  • History of Māori Art: A Brief Essay on the History of Māori Art in New Zealand. Wellington, N.Z.: Te Waka Toi Council for Māori and South Pacific Arts, [1992].
  • Ford states this is "a brief history of Māori art which was written for Te Waka Toi. This publication, containing illustrations of traditional Māori, presents some of the key things that Ford has lectured on concerning the values and the structures of art." Unsighted.
  • Reviews

  • Rev. of "Art and Artists of Oceania" by S. M. Mead and B. Kernot. Landfall 38 (1984): 365-369.


  • Martyn, Tamara. "John Bevan Ford." Pacific Way April 1992.
  • Nicholas, Darcy. "John Bevan Ford: Weaver of Lines, History and Genealogy." Art New Zealand 49 (1988/89): 51-53.
  • "Life Studies." Mana 42 (2001): 70-71.
  • "John Bevan Ford." The Guardian 14 Oct. 2005. Rpt.
  • 7 Dec. 2007.
  • 7 Dec. 2007.