Keeping language alive
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.”
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.