Robert Jahnke was born at Waipiro Bay and educated at Waipiro Bay Primary, Te Puea Springs Primary School and Haota Paora College, Feilding. He went to Ardmore Training College in 1970 and then spent a year working in a furniture factory. In 1972 Robert studied industrial design at Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland University, graduating with a B.F.A in 1976 and an M.F.A in 1978 in graphic design. From 1978-1980 Jahnke studied Experimental Film Animation at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia, USA, graduating with an M.F.A. He directed, produced and wrote the script for the fully animated film "Te Utu: Battle of the Gods." He returned to New Zealand in 1980 and went to the College of Education in Auckland in 1981 before teaching at Mangere College for five years. He spent a year’s secondment to the Education Department, followed by a period of teaching art at Waiariki Polytech in Rotorua. In 1991 Jahnke began lecturing at Massey University in the area of Māori visual arts and is currently Professor and Head of Massey’s School of Māori Studies and Coordinator of Māori Visual Art Programme. He has illustrated children’s books.
- Interview with Robert Jahnke 10 August 1992.
- Correspondence from Huia Jahnke, 16 Sep 1998.
- D’Auvergne, Rob. “Identity and Iconography: An Interview with Professor Robert Jahnke.” CS Arts 29 Feb. 2008. http://www.cs.org.nz/magazine/february_08/rjahnke 18 Sept. 2010.
- "Nga Ata O Te Whenua." Mana Tiriti: The Art of Protest and Partnership. Wellington, N.Z.: Haeata Māori Women’s Art Collective, Project Waitangi, Wellington City Art Gallery, Daphne Brasell, 1991. 30-31.
- Jahnke writes explanatory notes for his sculptural pieces in the Mana Tiriti exhibition. His theme comes from a statement made by Te Rarawa’s Nopera Panakareao who declared: ‘Ko te atakau o te whenua i riro i a te Kuini ko te tinana o te whenua i waiho ki nga Māori/ The shadow of the land has been taken by the Queen, while the substance remains with the Māori.’ A year later, however, Nopera reversed this statement ‘as the full significance of the Treaty materialised’. With their inverted forms, Jahnke’s sculptural structures refer to ‘the usurpation of mana and land. The substance of the land had been taken by the Queen while the shadow remains with the Māori.’
- "Exhibition Review: Nga Tupuna, Auckland Institute & Museum." NZ Museums Journal 21.1 (1991): 20-22.
- "Kohia Ko Taikaka Anake." Craft New Zealand 36 (1991): 32-35.
- Jahnke provides an extensive review of the Kohia Ko Taikaka Anake exhibition of contemporary Māori art at the National Art Gallery and identifies influences from traditional Māori art and Western and Pacific art traditions.
- "Voices beyond the Pae." He Pukenga Kōrero: A Journal of Māori Studies 2.1 (1996): 12-19.
- "Robyn Kahukiwa." The Dictionary of Art. London: Macmillan, 1996.
- "Contemporary Māori Art: Fact or Fiction." Māori Art and Culture. Ed. Dorota Starzecka. London: British Museum, 1998.
- Mataora: The Living Face: Contemporary Māori Art. General Eds.: Sandy Adsett and Cliff Whiting. Ed. Witi Ihimaera. Wellington, N.Z.: David Bateman/Te Waka Toi/Creative New Zealand, 1997.
- This substantial publication on contemporary Māori art is divided into sections entitled: Wero; Karanga; Whaikōrero; Mataora; He Tirohanga Hou; He Tirohanga Ki Muri; Te Whenua; Te Reo; Te Ahua whenua; Te Rito o Te Harakeke; Ta Te Tiriti o Waitangi; He Whakaaro; Poroporoaki and Waiata. It concludes with artists’ biographies, glossary and index. Extensive photographs of the art work are interspersed by texts by Robert Jahnke and Witi Ihimaera
- D’Auvergne, Rob. "Identity and Iconography: An Interview with Professor Robert Jahnke." CS Arts 29 Feb. 2008. http://www.cs.org.nz/magazine/february_08/rjahnke
- New Zealand - Art in Context.: Overview of Māori Contemporary Art.
- "Ngata’s Legacy for Contemporary Māori art." Ngata Centenary Lecture Series, Canterbury University, Christchurch, N.Z.
- "Nation and Representation: How the Iconography of Indigenous Colonised Cultures is Used for National Self-Representation." Adelaide Festival, 1992.
- All papers presented at the Adelaide Festival have been compiled into a publication which is made available to art schools in Adelaide.
- "Dialogue: Talking Past Each Other." NICHADS conference, U of Auckland, N.Z.