More to Hotere than art

Ralph Hotere was renowned for his sense of humour and love of cars as well as for the paintings which earned him accolades as one of New Zealand's greatest artists.

Moss Hotere, of Kaitaia, yesterday recalled accompanying his older brother to the Maori Community Centre by Victoria Park in Auckland in the 1960s, leaving Ralph's 1939 Ford V8 sedan parked outside, unlocked and with a window down a bit so Ralph's dog inside could breath.

When Ralph went to check the dog and found it gone he returned to the hall, got hold of the microphone on stage and announced that a dog which belonged to a blind man was missing and the owner needed it back.

Ralph never got his dog back and his art over the following 50 years showed he was far from blind, earning him a place in galleries throughout the world and New Zealand's highest honour - membership of the Order of New Zealand - in the 2012 New Year Honours.

His death in Dunedin on Sunday from pneumonia was not unexpected. The 81-year-old had been using a wheelchair since a stroke in 2001 and he had been unwell recently. But his death has prompted thousands of tributes from people who admired not only his work but also his stance as a man.

Moss said four family members had been present when Ralph passed away quietly at Dunedin Public Hospital. His body was yesterday resting at his home in Carey's Bay, Port Chalmers, and all his friends could visit him.

"From there he will be taken to Dunedin City Cathedral for mass before being flown to Auckland, where he will rest for a little while to enable his many friends and extended whanau to visit him," Moss said.

A helicopter would then carry the artist to Mitimiti for his tangi at the Matihetihe Marae and burial in the Maunga Hione cemetery alongside his parents and some of his siblings.

Moss said the time for the funeral would be set later this week. He was heading to Mitimiti with a big tent to help accommodate the expected huge numbers of mourners.

Hone Papita Raukura (Ralph) Hotere was born at Mitimiti, the fifth of 15 children produced by Chris and Anna Hotere. The surviving siblings now number five, including Moss, 72, the second youngest.

Ralph, who is of Te Rarawa and Te Aupouri descent, is survived by his wife Mary McFarlane, who is also a painter, and daughter Andrea from his previous marriage to writer and poet Cilla McQueen.

- Northland Age

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