After tucking into some homemade Pavlova (a meringuey-kinda-Kiwi dish) and meeting the myriad Mohi ancestors adorning the living room walls, Holly cruises the coast in the old Valiant with pop star Hinewehi Mohi — with Hine’s lead-foot Nanny at the wheel.
Hinewehi, lead singer for Oceania, has been dazzling audiences in New Zealand and abroad with her immense vocal talent. Fans are also captivated by her dedication to Maori culture and to her family — particularly her young daughter.
A couple years ago, she made a major splash when she sang the New Zealand national anthem in Maori before a World Cup rugby match in Twickenham, England, stunning both players and fans in the packed stadium.
“It was just a bit freaky for most non-Maori to hear no English incorporated in my version of the singing of the national anthem,” she remembers. “And I was really quite…I guess, upset by the reaction. Because I was thinking that we were a nation that could accept the fact that we were different and that we had this very special quality to our culture.”
And indeed, after the Kiwis recovered themselves, they did an abrupt about-face. Last year, the Ministry of Education commissioned her to record and perform the national anthem in Maori for schools.
Part Pakeha (European), part Maori, Hinewehi is committed to helping preserve the Maori language and way of life, and sings exclusively in Maori. “For me, it’s a really important responsibility that I have to take the Maori language to a world stage through my music, and it’s a wonderful way to do it,” she says.
She’s also devoted to her daughter Hineraukatauri, named for the guardian of all the Maori instruments. Hineraukatauri, who has cerebral palsey, travels with her everywhere — “it’s part of the package,” says Hinewehi. “She teaches us so much every day, it’s truly wonderful, and we feel really very pleased to have her in our lives…all the very basic things in life that we take for granted are a struggle for her. But she has such a cool attitude to it that you can’t help but be inspired by that strength and life.”
The album Oceania is dedicated to the struggles that inspire Hinewehi. “Each song is different, but basically talking about how the Maori have struggled to survive also, so it’s a two-pronged way of celebrating the survival of my daughter and then celebrating the survival of the Maori people.”
From the Interview
“We come together at the marae to celebrate life — as a mark of respect for the end of a life, but [also] to bring us all together and acknowledge who we are and where we’ve come from, and the ancestors that have brought us here.”
“I want to think that we can be brave enough as a nation to actually stand up and say, ‘We’re different! And we like it like that!’”
“Mana is a word that really… basically gives you a lot of prestige and a lot of strength of character…. An aura…I think they call it “innermost ethos”. But for many it’s a wonderful way of saying, you know, ‘I get my strength from way back!’”
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