A send-off worthy of Hotere

Yesterday I had the honour to say a few words of farewell to Ralph Hotere as he spent his last few hours in Otago before heading back to his birth home of Mitimiti.

Many have already commented on the man, his life and his works and I have read reflections and tributes online that tell the story of a man who commanded enormous respect. But at the church service I learnt quite a bit more.

Although much of his work contains a religious element, I had no idea how deeply he held the Catholic faith.

His real name is Hone Papita, which is a translation of John Baptiste, and he was named after Jean Baptiste Pompallier. This is, of course, the Bishop Pompallier who was basically the first Catholic missionary to set foot in New Zealand and became the first Catholic Bishop of Auckland.

His presence in Northland from 1838 onwards meant that several of the Maori villages of the far north took on the Catholic faith. Mitimiti was one of those villages. I had intended to visit the village when we were on holiday in the Hokianga simply because I knew of it from Ralph’s work but what I know now is that the village is also full of religious symbolism. The graveyard is called Hione or Zion and the church is Hato Hemi or St James. These stand alongside a traditional marae and perhaps give an insight into the way that Ralph perceived the world.

Certainly the Roman Catholic service conducted for Ralph was highly ritualised and full of symbolism itself. Most of us present were not Catholic but the religious proceedings were clearly requested by Ralph before he passed away.

During the eulogies he was described more than once as being his own man and being a man of integrity who used his talents to fight issues of racism, inequality and threats to the environment.

Quite possibly, the church has played its part in cementing his convictions about doing the right thing. Continue reading


Article and photo reproduced with permission.

Tahu Potiki is a columnist for The Christchurch Press.

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News category: Analysis and Comment.

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