Prestigious Icon Award for Dunedin composer

Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead. Photo: Gregor Richardson

Dunedin composer Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead has been awarded the Arts Foundation of New Zealand's highest honour, the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award at a ceremony in Wellington tonight.

Artists Billy Apple, Fred Graham, Bill Manhire and Albert Wendt are also receiving the award.

The recipients received their awards from the Governor General, Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy at a ceremony at Government House, Wellington. The Prime Minister and Minister of the Arts Culture and Heritage, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, also attended in the dinner.

The artists were awarded for their significant contributions to the arts and to the lives of New Zealanders.

Arts Foundation Chair, Garth Gallaway, said there were some artists who had a profound impact on the nation.

"The Icon Awards celebrates the achievements of those artists so that all New Zealanders can acknowledge our living greats and to learn more about their work and contributions".

The 2018 recipients were selected by Arts Foundation Trustees and Governors.

The recipients join a living circle of twenty artists celebrated as "Icons" and receive a medallion and pin designed by stone sculptor, John Edgar.

The artist has the pin forever, while the medallion is presented to a successor at a future ceremony.

The medallions of past recipients who have died, Sir Ian Athfield (architect), Jack Body (composer), Marti Friedlander (photographer), Peter Godfrey (musician) and Dr Cliff Whiting (artist, heritage, advocate, teacher), were presented to the 2018 recipients by a family member representing the previous holder of the medallion.

Thirty-eight Icons have been honoured with the award.

Previously awarded recipients include Janet Frame, Margaret Mahy, Ralph Hotere and Sir Peter Jackson.

Dame Gillian is one of Australasia’s most influential composers of our time whose works include operas, orchestral works, choral pieces, vocal and instrumental chamber compositions, solo works, pieces involving taonga puoro and compositions including improvisation.


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