Sculpture at home in New Brighton

Jon Jeet drew inspiration for the sculpture from his Indian, Fijian and Māori ancestors as well...
Jon Jeet drew inspiration for the sculpture from his Indian, Fijian and Māori ancestors as well as the Seaview Development rebuild of the earthquake-damaged site. Photo: Supplied
Artist Jon Jeet and his He Toki Maitai sculpture have come full circle after it was permanently placed on the former New Brighton School site.

Artist Jon Jeet.
Artist Jon Jeet.
The 2.2m-tall steel toki (axe), originally completed in 2022, is displayed next to the Roy Stokes Community Hall on the site where Seaview Development will be building 65 homes.

“Wow – what a journey it has been,” said Jeet, who lives close to the toki’s final resting place.

“I like that it has gone back to the site where I was creating pieces in my art studio, which was at the old school.

“The piece takes me back to building relations with Renew New Brighton and the many, many artists who were there.”

The toki was commissioned by SCAPE Public Art, after Jamie Hanton, then the managing curator, approached Jeet in response to the theme Sweat Equity, where different artists explored the effect of capital and labour on bodies.

Jeet drew inspiration from his Indian ancestors who were brought to Fiji as indentured labourers.

The work also references the former school being in the process of redevelopment.

"The earthquakes happened and I wanted to make a work that talked about ‘we’re ploughing into the soil again’.

"A part of the inspiration for the design was asking myself, why am I making this?"

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
Jeet is also of Ngāti Maniapoto descent. Traditionally, Māori shaped and used toki for several purposes, from gardening to wood carving.

They could also be carried ceremonially as a symbol of power and authority.

"We wear these forms now, but they had functionality too. They were used as tools,” he said.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
Jeet said there were "so many people involved” to get the art to where it is.

"Thanks to Leigh Mason, the Coombes sheet metal and fabrication director, for assistance in the initial construction and donating the $20,000 it cost to make, and to all, for their support.”

The last $7000 was funded by SCAPE. Executive director Richard Aindow said it was exciting to bring Jeet’s work to New Brighton.

"SCAPE’s vision is to bring permanent artworks to life in communities across the whole city. It’s immensely satisfying to install a piece where the artist lives and works.”

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
Jeet has a master’s degree in painting from Canterbury University’s Ilam School of Fine Arts and has taught widely.

He Toki Maitai, which translates as “beautiful toki or foreign/steel toki”, was on temporary display at Te Matatiki Toi Ora The Arts Centre.