Mr G 'honoured' to paint mural of reo Māori stalwart Hana Te Hemara

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Hana Te Hemara, the instigator of the Māori language petition by Ngā Tamatoa 50 years ago, is to be remembered with a five-storey mural in her hometown.

Graham Hoete, the artist known as Mr G (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Awa) is painting a mural in her honour, as part of the “I am Hana” project outside the Puke Ariki Library and Museum complex in downtown New Plymouth.

“It’s a huge honour to be a part of sparking the initial campaign by painting this large mural,” he says.

“Hei whakamānawa, hei whakahōnoretia ki a ia, tētahi mana wahine, tētahi raiona.”

Having done so many murals that have garnered international attention from murals of music legend Prince to New Zealand’s own NBA superstar Steven Adams, one key aspect of any mahi that Mr G does is all in the preparation, as well as having the community be a part of the experience too.

“Just making sure you actually know what you’re up to. It’s not just about painting a mural, there’s a whole spectrum of mahi that goes on behind the scenes in preparing for something like this.

“I like to kōrero with the hapori and just engage with the rangatahi as well. It’s a great opportunity for that.”

With Te Hemara a stalwart for te reo Māori, Hoete is also on his road to learning the language too.

“I know first-hand that this huarahi of learning the reo, it’s the most beautiful journey but it can be the most difficult too. It can be quite painstaking at times too as a Māori trying to reclaim your language.

“To see me as almost a fruit of [Hana Te Hemara’s] mahi, Ngā Tamatoa and Reo Māori society, it’s a huge honour for me.”