Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Hotere to be farewelled with requiem mass before tangi

Artist Ralph Hotere. Photo / Marti Friedlander
Artist Ralph Hotere. Photo / Marti Friedlander

Artist Ralph Hotere will be farewelled with a requiem mass at St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral in Dunedin on Thursday ahead of his tangi.

Hotere, 81, who was one of only a handful of people to be made a Member of the Order of New Zealand, died peacefully in Dunedin yesterday.

His personal representative and chairwoman of the Hotere Foundation, lawyer Judith Ablett-Kerr QC, said a requiem mass for Hotere would be held at St Joseph's at 11am on Thursday.

"This mass will be open to members of the public who may wish to pay their respects to Ralph," she said.

On Friday, his body will be taken to Matihetihe Marae at Mitimiti in Northland for his tangi.

Hotere, of Te Aupouri iwi descent, had moved to Port Chalmers in Otago and died in Dunedin surrounded by family.

He had been suffering from pneumonia.

Top Maori leaders have paid tribute to Hotere today.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, a long-time friend who used to hang out with Hotere when they were in Auckland together in the 1960s, said Hotere was a much-loved man who was respected within Maori communities.

"He was as humble as they came. Despite his obvious talents, he would never accept praise, he tangata whakaiti, he tangata humarie.

"More than an artist, Ralph's artworks encapsulated much of the struggle that tangata whenua were facing during his time. He was an activist; he was a thought provoking philosopher; and he was an advocate for Maori rights."

Dr Sharples said Hotere may have been a quiet man, but he found a way to communicate his thoughts about the world through his art.

"We are proud of his achievements both here in Aotearoa and internationally - he pushed boundaries, he led the way for New Zealand art, and as a result he has earned his place in our history.

"He took our culture to the world, and he took our aspirations as tangata whenua and enticed people to engage in our history and our stories.

"He had refined artistic skill, but he was also a story teller at heart, and it was our Maori stories that he told so well.

"He will be sorely missed, and we send our aroha and condolences to his whanau. Moe mai, moe mai e te rangatira."

Te Puni Kokiri chief executive Michelle Hippolite said New Zealand had lost an artistic pioneer whose career as a sculptor, painter and collaborative artist had changed New Zealand art forever.

"The legacy of this son of the Hokianga remains through his art which challenged and championed important social issues.

"While he preferred to let the viewer interpret the works for themselves, the works are a part of the story of Aotearoa New Zealand."

A sculpture Hotere made with his wife Mary McFarlane, Ruaumoko - named after the Maori god of earthquakes - stands outside the ministry's office on Wellington's Lambton Quay.

Commissioned in 1998 and made from materials salvaged from the demolition of the old State Insurance Building, it is made up of a concrete column which is broken in two, and a second column which is crowned with bronze lettering.

Hotere was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand in 2011 - the only person to be awarded the country's highest honour that year.

He suffered a debilitating stroke in 2001, after which his artistic output was limited.

- APNZ

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