Hotere to be remembered in sculpture

By Peter de Graaf

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Days of debate over where to bury one of Northland's most famous sons, the artist Ralph Hotere, was solved after another renowned artist agreed to build a sculpture in his memory.

Hone Papita Raukura "Ralph" Hotere was buried on Monday at Maunga Hione, a hilltop cemetery overlooking Matihetihe Marae and the wild west coast at Mitimiti. Mr Hotere's father and some of his 14 siblings are already buried on the hill.

However, some family members felt he should have been buried at St James Church at Mitimiti, the resting place of his mother, Ana Maria Hotere. She was buried there in 1972 in honour of the many years she had spent tending to the cemetery and church grounds.

Those that wanted Mr Hotere buried at the church were concerned his mother had been left on her own with her husband and children buried on the hill above.

The issue had been debated for two nights during the tangihanga when whanau members asked renowned Kerikeri sculptor Chris Booth, a friend of Mr Hotere's for 35 years, if he would be prepared to make a monument for the church cemetery.

As a result an agreement was reached that Mr Hotere would be buried on the hill while Mr Booth would make a memorial sculpture to be placed next to his mother. Whanau also discussed adding a plaque to her grave naming the children who had passed on.

Mr Booth said creating a sculpture celebrating his friend's life and contribution to art was "a huge honour". It would be made in complete engagement with the family, requiring him to spend some time living at the marae.

"It will honour his mother and make sure she's not alone. It will touch the land in the most profound way I can. My skills will be challenged. There's no way I can imitate Ralph, yet it must have the essence of Ralph in it."

Mr Booth's distinctive stone sculptures can be seen in parks and outdoor art museums worldwide. New Zealand works include the Rainbow Warrior memorial at Matauri Bay, the sculpture at Kerikeri Domain and Whangarei's Wave and Waka (with Te Warihi Hetaraka).

- Northern Advocate

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