Ko Hiwi o te Wera me Kīha nā pae mauna
Ko Wairewa me Haurepo nā kōawa
Ko Nāti Manunui te hapu
Ko Te Umuroa te marae
Ko Tūhoe te iwi
Ko Asher Raawiri Newbery te rinatoi.
Asher Raawiri Newbery is of Tūhoe and Pākehā decent. Raised in Lyttelton, he has had a lifelong passion for painting. Growing up in the South Island, Asher felt estranged from his Māori whakapapa which lay in Te Urewera with the Tūhoe people. He set about to return to his iwi using art as his vehicle.
After finishing high school, Newbery moved to Palmerston North to study at Massey University. He attained a Masters of Māori Visual Art through the Te Pūtahi a Toi, Toioho ki Apiti programme. By 2016 he was living in the Bay of Plenty, working for his iwi in a role that oversaw the art, artifacts and archives of the tribe.
Newbery's current work investigates Māori cosmological narratives. Through his painting process, use of colour and design elements he seeks a greater understanding of how his tupuna (ancestors) may have understood the nature of the beginning of the universe, the earth and humankind. This theme stems from his study where during his Masters Newbery examined astronomical notions of time and space and the difference between Pākehā and Māori understandings of this topic. His interest piqued while reading Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s ‘Decolonizing Methodologies’ where she mentions that in the Māori language, ‘time’ and ‘space’ are translated into the same word, “wa”.
In 2015 after receiving a grant from the Earl Creativity and Development Trust, Newbery painted a group of 175 panels called “Te Ōkiwa” to commemorate every year since the signing of the Tiriti o Waitangi to 2015. They were first displayed in Te Manawa Gallery and the White Room Gallery in Palmerston North before they were shown in part across the country. The idea for the creation for these paintings began on August 22nd 2014 when the Crown delivered its official apology to the Tūhoe. Taonga were returned to the iwi and Newbery says “I felt so touched, overwhelmed almost, it was an emotional time.”
After his father passed in 2017, Newbery returned to the South Island to be close to his family and care for the family home. He continues to paint from his Lyttelton studio where he, as he describes, "works to add to a Māori visual vocabulary." Asher believes his practice is a part of a continuum of Māori art and his work a duty to his family and his Tūhoe culture.