Reo Māori stalwart Hana Te Hemara immortalised in five-storey mural looking to Taranaki maunga

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Image credit: Pethiana 2022.

The second day of commemorations for Te Petihana Reo Māori began early this morning, this time unveiling the mural of the woman responsible for creating the petition that made te reo Māori an official language in Aotearoa 50 years ago: Hana Te Hemara.

Hundreds gathered as the sun rose, shining its light upon the impressive five-storey mural in Hana’s hometown in Ngāmotu, New Plymouth, which was blessed with karakia.

Artist Graham Hoete (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Awa), known better as Mr G, was given the honour of immortalising Te Hemara.

He began on August 30, using the words of the petition on the building as the underlay of the portrait. Hoete said he was tested 'to the core' during the project, going through three cranes and also delayed by rain, but he completed the mural this week.

During the unveiling, Ngā Tamatoa member Donna Awatere Huata was invited to read the history-making petition aloud to the audience.

“To the Honourable, the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives of New Zealand in Parliament assembled.

“We the undersigned, do humbly pray that courses in Māori language and aspects of Māori culture be offered in ALL those schools with large Māori rolls and that these same courses be offered, as a gift to the Pākehā from the Māori, in ALL other New Zealand schools as a positive effort to promote a more meaningful concept of integration.

“E hoa mā, tēnā koutou katoa. E pīrangi ana mātou kia whakaakongia te reo Māori, me ngā tikanga Māori, ki roto i NGĀ KURA KATOA e maha ana ngā taitamariki Māori, ā, kia hoatu hoki ēnei taonga hei koha ki te Pākehā, ki roto i ō rātou kura katoa, kia tika ai te kōrero he iwi kotahi tātou.”

'Privileged spaces'

Mr G also stood to give his thanks to everyone involved in helping to make the mural possible.

Speaking to presenter Wena Harawira, he says he loves to make connections in his mahi, so he has Taranaki maunga in Hana's eyes as part of the mural. 

“I just try to capture the gaze within the context of where this mural is positioned of her looking and facing the maunga.

“For me, it’s about getting those intimate insights about Hana too from the whānau, from her daughter Ramari as well. As an artist, those are honoured, privileged spaces to be in.”

This event follows from yesterday when Parliament’s steps were transformed for celebrations of the exact day 50 years ago that the petition was delivered by Te Hemara, Ngā Tamatoa, Te Rōpū Reo Māori and university students.