Ramai Te Miha Hayward, a Martinborough-born pioneer of New Zealand cinema who once refused a damehood to protest the sale of Wairarapa land overseas, was this year made a Member of the Order of Merit for her services to film and television.
Mrs Hayward, 89, was last year also honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Wairoa Maori Film Festival held in the town.
Mrs Hayward has lived most of her adult life in Auckland, where she is now living with a caregiver, although in past years she had made regular trips back to Wairarapa to visit family.
In an earlier interview in Masterton she recalled her early life in Greytown, her childhood enchantment with cinema, and her travels and world-first celluloid adventures taken alongside late husband Rudall Hayward.
She also recounted some personal crusades that included her refusal of a damehood in defiance of government plans in the early 1990s to sell the Cape Palliser Lighthouse and surrounding land to international buyers.
"My great-grandfather, the ariki Hemi Te Miha, fought until his dying day to save our Wairarapa lake. He and all the kaumatua of the time were all together, saying they didn't want it sold. The government waited until they had died, and the silly ones after that sold the lake for 2000 pounds, 2000 pounds.
"We fought for five years and saved the lighthouse and land, but I saw a photograph with a pakeha history, you know, take over everything, with a caption saying ' the farmers open the bar' to the lake. But what isn't written there is that our Maori women went down there and were filling it back again. And more farmers came, and more Maori women came, womanpower, and the farmers gave up in the end.
"It was a woman thing, the men didn't come down, probably because they sold the lake, that's why they didn't come."
Mrs Hayward has also won personal distinction throughout her life, being the first in the world with Rudall Hayward to make English-language films in communist China; New Zealand's first Maori woman filmmaker, camerawoman, scriptwriter, and starring actor; kuia for the New Zealand Film Commission; patron of the international Women in Film and Television organisation; an actor fondly remembered as Billy T James' screen mother; Kingi Ihaka Award recipient; a photographer and a successful portrait painter and author.
Mrs Hayward was born on November 11, 1916 "on Peace Day, you know", daughter of Roihi Te Miha and Fred Mawhinney, living mostly at the Martinborough home of her grandmother Huria Kinihe Te Kaaho, and at the family home across the road from the Greytown Hospital.
She said she remembers speaking only Maori and as a child stayed close to the home fires with her grandmother, her uncle Harry Te Whaiti, and a mute cousin " who was a lovely, lovely man very well known in Greytown".
"We used to sit together on the side of the road sometimes, waving to everybody, he smoking his pipe and wearing his bowler hat, and me only a small child. He had a lovely face. Goldie should have painted him. Maybe I will instead."
Mrs Hayward's passion for the silver screen " my destiny" began when she was about 10, she said, sparked by the Wairarapa screening of Son of The Sheik, starring silent film legend Rudolph Valentino, who "all the aunties, in fact all the women; Maori, Pakeha, Chinese, were all crazy about".
There was also a family connection to cinema through her father, she said, who worked as a projectionist at the Featherston theatre before his death in Belgium as a New Zealand soldier in 1917.
Her mother married Jim Miller in 1920 and moved to the South Island, she said. At the death of her mother in 1935 and taking the name Patricia Miller, Mrs Hayward apprenticed herself as a photographer to Frenchman Henri Harrison, working out of Cuba Studios in Wellington.
Within two years she had shifted to Auckland and established Patricia Miller Studios on the North Shore. It was during this time that she befriended Maewa Kaihau, blind lyricist of the farewell song ' Haere Ra'.
She said that before the death of Kaihau in 1941, the pair would often attend recitals at the Auckland Institute for the Blind, where Mrs Hayward impressed actor Stanley Knight, who was then playing the lead in the sound remake of Rudall Hayward's 1925 silent film, Rewi's Last Stand.
Mrs Hayward was soon after cast as the film's singing heroine, Ariana, and also designed publicity posters for the movie, produced in 1940.
The pair married in 1943, and in 1946 the photographic studio was sold and the couple moved to England.
Rudall was a scion of the Hayward family, which was one half of the British theatre and cinema chain, Fuller Hayward. Rudall had begun his personal work with cinema as a child assistant to the projectionist at Hayward's Theatre in Waihi.
The couple are acknowledged as the real pioneers of New Zealand filmmaking, and after their shift to England Mrs Hayward continued to ignite interest as the only cine-camerawoman in the country at the time, she said, as was the case back home in New Zealand.
The couple worked while in England for the BBC creating newsreels, filming and interviewing among others Pandit Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India; Viscount Bernard Montgomery; and American world champion heavyweight boxer, Joe Louis.
Mrs Hayward said it was during outdoor filming for the dramas Coming Through The Rye and The World Is Turning Towards The Coloured People that she learnt her trade as a camera operator and as a writer, penning the screenplays for the latter film and another dramatic film, Goodwin Sands.
"I used to cart the equipment, I mean I was 17 years younger than Rudall, and toward the end I also at times had to carry him."
In 1957 the Haywards travelled to communist China to make Inside Red China and Wonders of China, which became the first English-language films shot there since the Kuomintang government was overthrown in 1949, she said.
Mrs Hayward also wrote and directed Children In China about the same time, which was the beginning of a children's film series that included North Island Dairy Farm and Arts and Crafts of Maori Children.
While in China Mrs Hayward placed the gift of a Maori feather cloak on the shoulders of Mao Tse Tung, met Chou En Lai and befriended writer, Han Suyin before " coming back broke from China" and making Song of Jerusalem on location beside the Whanganui River.
"But then we always had to earn the money to make the films, and they were all at that time made on a half a shoestring budget."
In 1972 the Haywards made New Zealand's first colour feature film and last collaborative work, the dramatic documentary To Love A Maori, which was intended as a dramatic documentary highlighting the problems and successes of Maori urban migration, and portraying social problems of the day.
During a promotional tour for the film in 1974, she said, Rudall died of a heart attack in Dunedin.
"Our relationship was wonderful. We'd worked together for 36 years and I often thought I was Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote."
Mrs Hayward joined the Maori Woman's Welfare League and the Maori Artists and Writers organisation soon after her husband's death.
" Maori people were in films from the beginning. People came here, from the beginning, not to film pakeha, they were the surplus Dickensian British; people came here to film the Maori.
"And now look at films like Once Were Warriors. Maori writers, Maori director, Maori camera operators. And the whole world embraced it."
Throughout the interview Mrs Hayward several times returned to "the force of her personal destiny" and spoke of the many portraits yet to be painted, the films to be made, and the screenplays to be written.
"I feel like I haven't lived enough. You know I was supposed to die at 10. Ratana saved me.
"But I was really not supposed to be in this world. Don't you see, I was supposed to become an angel at 10, here at the Greytown Hospital, even though I'm not much of an angel at times. But every now and then?"