Keep­ing lan­guage alive

Central Leader - - News - By Lisa Sloan

WHEN Hinewehi Mohi was young she was more in­ter­ested in run­ning around on the farm than learn­ing Maori.

The San­dring­ham res­i­dent did not grow up speak­ing the lan­guage and only be­gan to learn it when she was 10.

But thanks to the per­sis­tence of her fa­ther, te reo Maori be­came an in­te­gral part of her life.

Mrs Mohi, 43, has carved out a ca­reer span­ning more than 20 years in singing, pre­sent­ing and pro­duc­ing Maori television pro­grammes.

Her aim has al­ways been to keep her lan­guage alive.

De­spite her mod­esty, she was made a mem­ber of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit for her ser­vices to Maori on Mon­day.

She says she is over­whelmed by the hon­our.

“Get­ting that en­ve­lope with the beau­ti­ful parch­ment was thrilling.

“Show­ing the beauty of the lan­guage through your craft is just an amaz­ing thing to do and I have been on a pas­sion­ate and ful­fill­ing jour­ney.”

Mrs Mohi grew up on a farm in cen­tral Hawke’s Bay.

When she was 10 her fa­ther de­cided she needed to know her na­tive lan­guage. Lit­tle did he know, it would start a jour­ney that would shape her whole life.

Af­ter study­ing at St Joseph’s Maori Girls Col­lege and Waikato Univer­sity Mrs Mohi moved to Auck­land and started a ca­reer in television and ra­dio de­vel­op­ing bilin­gual pro­grammes.

She be­gan singing with Moana Ma­niapoto of Moana and the Moa Hunters in both Maori and English.

She also re­leased her album Ocea­nia, which sold 70,000 copies.

She has per­formed with Crowded House at Wem­b­ley, sung un­der a rugby ball at the foot of the Eif­fel Tower in Paris and done “lots of ran­dom things around the world along the way”.

In be­tween her singing ca­reer Mrs Mohi has also been in­volved as a di­rec­tor, pro­ducer and pre­sen­ter for Maori TV and her two pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, work­ing to en­sure Maori lan­guage con­tent stays on the air­waves.

She says it has been won­der­ful to have two pas­sions to fo­cus on.

“If I do too much of one, then I hang out for the other,” she says.

“There’s noth­ing quite like singing in Paris, it’s dif­fi­cult to top those mo­ments in life, but television has its longevity and pro­vides ac­cess to the lan­guage.”

In 2004 Mrs Mohi started the Raukatauri Mu­sic Ther­apy Cen­tre for chil­dren with spe­cial needs in hon­our of her 12-year-old daugh­ter Hin­er­aukatauri, who has cere­bral palsy.

She says it is so im­por­tant to keep the Maori lan­guage strong: “The lan­guage has such a beau­ti­ful tex­ture and soft­ness about it.

“We’ve come so close to los­ing it and we need to move for­ward, make it ap­pro­pri­ate to a mod­ern con­text.

“Once you’re about to lose some­thing you start to ap­pre­ci­ate it so much more. It is of our cul­ture and part of ev­ery­thing.”

Mrs Mohi says while she has achieved a lot in her singing and television ca­reers, the mu­sic cen­tre and her fam­ily re­main her most mean­ing­ful achieve­ments.

“It’s been a per­sonal jour­ney and achieve­ment that I’m re­ally proud of, I’ve al­ways had this all con­sum- ing ded­i­ca­tion to lan­guage preser­va­tion that has been at the fore­front of my mind,” she says.

“But my top pri­or­ity will al­ways be my chil­dren and my hus­band and the dreams for bet­ter things we have for them.”

Mrs Mohi says the great­est part of be­ing made a mem­ber of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit is hav­ing some­one to share it with. Her fa­ther Michael, who fos­tered her love of the Maori lan­guage, is also be­ing hon­oured with a Queen’s Ser­vice Medal for ser­vices to con­ser­va­tion.

“It will be re­ally won­der­ful to share this with my dad.

“I’m re­ally thrilled for him be­cause he is the rea­son for all of this.”

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

In hon­our: Singer, pre­sen­ter and pro­ducer Hinewehi Mohi has been named a mem­ber of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit for her ser­vices to Maori.

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