Robert Jahnke was raised at Waipiro Bay on the East Coast.
He went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, and a Masters in Experimental Animation from California Institute of the Arts. In 2006, Jahnke was awarded a Doctor of Māori Studies from Massey University.
Jahnke employs a range of media to create work that tackles issues of identity, colonisation and intercultural exchange, and to explore Māori creation narratives in a multidimensional way.
Jahnke is Professor of Māori Visual Arts at Massey University, where he helped drive the establishment of the Toioho ki Āpiti arts programme in 1991.