Kōkako No.2

Recently, exhibiting artist, Jae Frew sat with RNZ’s Perlina Lau on the Culture 101 segment, about the works that form ‘Manu Kōingo – Birds of Yearning’
Listen to the audio of the interview here.

Read below for the article from

If you’ve ever opened a magazine in Aotearoa New Zealand, chances are, you’ve almost certainly seen Jae Frew’s work.

Frew’s commercial career spans three decades and he’s gained particular recognition for portraiture. He’s photographed the likes of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Jacinda Arden, Bill English, countless television show campaigns, TV personalities, news and current affairs campaigns, along with fashion and food.

But the pandemic and lockdowns gave the artist time and space to begin to explore a different route, for which he drew inspiration from his childhood. Frew’s latest exhibition, Manu Kōingo – Birds of Yearning at Parnell Gallery in Auckland, sees him shifting focus to a different subject – endangered, extinct and treasured bird life.


Manu Kōingo - Jae Frew

The title of the exhibition is a story in itself. It happened after a chance meeting with Emeritus professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku whom he met while taking her portrait during the filming of Waharoa – Art of the Pacific.

The two hit it off and it was Te Awekotuku who came up with the name Manu Kōingo for the exhibition. An encounter Frew considers very special.

Frew has always had a love of birds and had an aviary at home as a child. He went knocking on Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa’s door and gained access to the national taxidermied bird collection. The artist spent hours observing and studying the birds from every angle.

Manu Kōingo - Jae FrewThe taxidermied aspect allowed him more control. Frew was shown the extensive temperature-controlled bird store at Te Papa and was able to select from cabinets and load up a trolley with his chosen species.

Manu Kōingo combines Frew’s love of photography, birds and it’s been a chance to pay homage to his father – a furniture maker. Each bespoke framed portrait of the bird has been carefully crafted. The thick frames are made from native and recycled timber, evoking feelings of Rembrandt, Goldie and Lindauer – creating an old-school feel.

Manu Kōingo - Jae Frew

But beyond combining his passion and skills, the exhibition he says is an expression of hope for our remaining native birds and raising awareness of conservation and the treasures they are. Frew wants to put the spotlight on the fragile and diminishing forest life.

Jae Frew spoke to Culture 101’s Perlina Lau.

Manu Kōingo – Birds of Yearning will be at Parnell Gallery in Auckland until 21 April.