Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view / Emily Simp­son Pho­to­graph / Vivienne Hal­dane

Of­fi­cially, it’s my wife and I and our dog liv­ing here. But we have three chil­dren and four grand­chil­dren. And I’m Ng puhi and Ng ti Kahu, so when all my re­la­tions come they come in three mini buses. It’s a big house, it has to be. Five bed­rooms.

This is a haven, a place of peace. Be­ing an en­ter­tainer, I’m out gig­ging all the time. Jazz, R&B, SparkleBall – what­ever’s go­ing…

My day job is work­ing at the prison in the M ori fo­cus unit, teach­ing nu­mer­acy, lit­er­acy, te reo and tikanga M ori. We’re lucky, in our part of the prison the men are re­ally mo­ti­vated, they’re want­ing to learn, they’re re­con­nect­ing with iden­tity and cul­ture. We’re not rein­vent­ing the wheel: know­ing where you come from is what you need to keep your­self safe and not come back to jail.

You’ve got to be able to of­fer hope. You do that in ways that touch peo­ple. Mu­sic comes in handy.

We teach tika, pono and aroha – what is right, what is true and do­ing things with love. Love doesn’t al­ways mean a hug, it can mean be­ing bru­tally hon­est. If you live those val­ues at home you can bring them to work.

My dad died in a truck ac­ci­dent and then Mum died a cou­ple of years later of a bro­ken heart. It was a real re­la­tion­ship with ups and downs, but there was love there. All of a sud­den I was the el­dest and I try to keep those val­ues go­ing about tak­ing care of peo­ple. Try­ing to be a sta­ble pres­ence – not just for the grand­chil­dren, but for all of them.

My wife Ki­nena is a P keh from In­ver­cargill. She’s the el­dest too, we’re two bossy first­borns. Ki­nena man­ages the deli at New World, so there’s al­ways kai. She works re­ally hard. I swan in and out of prison talk­ing about mu­sic and trans­for­ma­tional change and she comes home and says: “God, I’ve been on my feet all day. I’m stuffed.”

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