There has been a massive outpouring from the media in response to Ralph Hotere’s death on Sunday. This time the role of one of our important artists has been powerfully and publically acknowledged for his contribution to our culture’s history and development. The irony will not be lost on those who knew Hotere as one of a small band of artists who refused to take part in the media round. He always said that if you wanted answers you needed to find them in the work and he stuck to that philosophy. Hotere quotes are few and far between.
We had our own experience of the Hotere silence when we asked for an interview back in the late 1970s. “I really have nothing to say to you,” he replied to our note, “but you are more than welcome to come and spend a day with me and my work.” So we did. Hotere was wry and funny and thoughtful never once suggesting that the two Wellington eager beavers might be keeping him away from important work. It was a memorable day and as it turned out not the last. Now that contemporary art by Maori artists is simply accepted as another key part of our culture, it is hard to remember how hard this acceptance was won and what a pivotal part Ralph Hotere played in the winning.
Images: Top left Otago Daily Times front page and right The Press inside pages. Middle, NZ Herald Front page and inners. Bottom Dominion Post front page and TVNZ report.