City service public's chance to farewell Hotere

The Hotere tribute book available to be signed in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Photo by Peter...
The Hotere tribute book available to be signed in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The life of artist Ralph Hotere will be celebrated with a public service in Dunedin this week.

A requiem Mass will be held at 11am on Thursday at St Joseph's Cathedral.

Hotere (81) died in Dunedin at noon on Sunday, surrounded by family and friends.

''This Mass will be open to members of the public who may wish to pay their respects to Ralph,'' Hotere family spokeswoman Judith Ablett-Kerr advised yesterday. On Friday, Hotere's body will be taken to the Matihetihe marae, at his Mitimiti birthplace in Northland, for his tangi. Tributes continued to flow yesterday.

''Our country has lost an artistic pioneer whose career as a sculptor, painter and collaborative artist spanned more than five decades; changing New Zealand art forever,'' Ministry of Maori Development Te Puni Kokiri chief executive Michelle Hippolite said.

''The legacy of this son of the Hokianga remains through his art, which challenged and championed important social issues.''

A sculpture by Hotere and his wife, artist Mary McFarlane, Ruaumoko, stands outside Te Puni Kokiri offices in Wellington.

Long-time friend Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said Hotere was a great Maori figure.

''Ralph's art works encapsulated much of the struggle that tangata whenua were facing during his time. He was an activist; he was a thought-provoking philosopher; and he was an advocate for Maori rights,'' Dr Sharples said.

''He took our culture to the world, and he took our aspirations as tangata whenua and enticed people to engage in our history and our stories.''

A tribute book was placed beneath Hotere's 1989 work Oputae, Blue Gums and Daisies Falling in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery yesterday.

''The gallery had a very long and rich relationship with Ralph over the years and we're feeling his loss acutely and want to pay respect by putting up his work and allowing our audience to reflect,'' gallery director Cam McCracken said.

''He was a remarkable person and a real character. He is at the very top. He is one of a handful of artists to be mentioned in the same breath as the greats; like [Colin] McCahon and [Rita] Angus. He was a very significant contemporary New Zealand artist. It's the end of an era. It's a very significant loss.''

The Port Chalmers Community Board would pay its respects at its next meeting on March 20, chairwoman Jan Tucker said yesterday.

''He was a great member of the Port Chalmers community. He was the first, and only, ONZ we've ever had.''

Hotere was made a member of the Order of New Zealand in the 2012 New Year's Honours in recognition of his contribution to contemporary art.

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