NZ Icon Artist Award for son of Samoa

Maualaivao Albert Wendt at the Icon Awards ceremony. 

10 May, 2018. – Samoa’s most revered author and the ‘Father of Pacific Literature’ has been named a New Zealand Icon Artist, joining a prestigious group of recipients.

Maualaivao Albert Wendt was presented with his Icon medallion at a ceremony held at Government House in Wellington, NZ on Wednesday May 9.

The Arts Foundation Icon Awards – Whakamana Hiranga, honours senior NZ artists for their extraordinary achievements. These artists are recognised as leaders in their fields and the Awards are the Arts Foundations highest honour.

Maualaivao is one of five new Icon Artists and they join a circle of 20 living Icon recipients.


The NZ Governor General Dam Patsy Reddy presented each of the five with their awards and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attended a dinner held in honour of the awards.

Family members of previous medallion holders presented the artists with a medallion and a pin. Artists can keep the pin in their family, but the medallions are passed on when the recipient dies.

Since their inception in 2003, thirty-eight artists have been presented with Icon Awards, including Sir Peter Jackson, Margaret Mahy and Janet Frame.

According to the Arts Foundation “Icons are artists whose work represents a legacy to, and a mark on, our culture. They have made a significant impact on their chosen art form. They remain influential and inspirational and continue to be admired for their work.

Maualaivao was born in Apia and attended primary and intermediate school here before going to New Zealand on a scholarship. Maualaivao has published a huge range of fiction and poetry, as well as theoretical writing.

He is internationally recognised as a leader of developments in New Zealand and Pacific literature. He was awarded the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in 2000.

His publications often feature his own drawings, and in 2008 an exhibition of his paintings opened in Auckland. He has edited a number of important anthologies and continues to play a major role in fostering and promoting Pacific literature.

In 2013 he was awarded the highest possible honour in New Zealand’s honours system, becoming a member of the Order of New Zealand.

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