OBITUARY

One of the voices of Māori radio in Hawke's Bay, Marjorie Smith, also known as Mohiti Te Kotahitanga Smith, has died aged 88.

A stalwart of the te reo revitalisation community in the region, she leaves behind 109 mokopuna.

Her eldest son Eric Smith, 66, says she was very "well-respected" in Ngāti Kahungunu and was fondly remembered as 'Mum', 'Nana', 'Aunty', 'Marj' and 'Mohiti' by family and friends.

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She died surrounded by her whanau on March 25.

Eric Smith stands proudly with his mum 'Marj' Smith who passed away, a stalwart of teo reo, aged 88.
Eric Smith stands proudly with his mum 'Marj' Smith who passed away, a stalwart of teo reo, aged 88.

"Our mother was a stalwart of the community in particular for things Māori," Eric Smith said.

"She was raised in te reo and contributed to its revitalisation throughout her lifetime."

Eric said his mum was born in the small Hawke's Bay town of Whakaki on July 10, 1930, and she died there. She raised seven children.

"It was there that her children and mokopuna would hear stories about Mohiti's life and achievements from the many rangatira who crossed her path, and wove feathers into her korowai paying tribute to her contribution to te ao Maori.

"She was a Whakaki girl through and through. She spent most of time in Heretaunga but her home was in Northern Hawke's Bay.

"She was number 11 of 13 children. She was the last in her line - Tawhiri Nohinohi, there are no more of them."

Mohiti worked at the Hawke's Bay Hospital for 22 years as a kitchen hand, and retired after she left the hospital. But her life got busier after retirement, says Eric.

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"She spent the majority of her life bringing up her family in the Māori world, and when she retired from the hospital she continued with her community work and service.

"She used to do weaving - korowai, kete, and a lot of her work was well sought after.

"She also spent many years learning and teaching raranga with local schools including Te Wananga o Aotearoa. Many of us were lucky to have been gifted taonga handmade by herself or by her friends."

Mohiti Te Kotahitanga Smith used to weave korowai's, and kete's and a lot of her work was sought after.
Mohiti Te Kotahitanga Smith used to weave korowai's, and kete's and a lot of her work was sought after.

Te reo was her passion and she spent many years with Te Kohanga Reo, Manutahi Te Kōhanga Reo.

"She was a broadcaster for Te Reo Irirangi o Ngati Kahungunu up until she died, and enjoyed bringing local and global news to the listeners. She would often seek out political or national news from her whanau around the motu. She had her opinions and she would voice them on her radio show."

Mohiti Te Kotahitanga Smith aka Marjorie Smith was a broadcaster for Te Reo Irirangi o Ngati Kahungunu until her very last day. Photo / Supplied.
Mohiti Te Kotahitanga Smith aka Marjorie Smith was a broadcaster for Te Reo Irirangi o Ngati Kahungunu until her very last day. Photo / Supplied.

She was active in the community as a kaumatua and in 2015 was presented Te Tohu Matariki: given to an Individual who promotes or applies te reo Māori as part of everyday life.

"She was awarded a tohu and like her siblings are a unique generation of speakers that are held the treasures of our language such as its mita (dialect).

"She shared with us, her whanau, that she learned to karanga in her early fifties.

"She was encouraged by her cousins and local village people as there were very few left to be able to lead this for the marae. She noted that each karanga was to be simple and relevant for the kaupapa."

She lost her husband 30 years ago and so, with her determination to uphold tikanga in her native tongue, became the kaikorero at family gatherings always ensuring their reo would never be lost at those times.

"She could often lean on other male speakers, where their words were supported by her sweet melodic voice singing her favourite Maori tune 'Hine Tepairu.

"It's like a national anthem from the village she comes from. Everyone from Whakaki knows the song."

Mohiti Te Kotahitanga Smith died aged 88, a very well-loved member of the community.
Mohiti Te Kotahitanga Smith died aged 88, a very well-loved member of the community.

There were other loves woven into Mohiti's life including her rugby and kai.

"She was a big rugby fan. She was a staunch Hawke's Bay rugby fan, a big Hurricanes and All Blacks fan, to the point that even when she was dying she wanted to get up and watch the game."