By Kayne Peters.
Hinewehi Mohi, acclaimed screen producer, singer and passionate advocate for te reo Māori of Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tūhoe was appointed a Dame champion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Māori, music and television in the 2021 Queens Birthday honours this year.
The award winning television producer, Dame Hinewehi Mohi encourages Māori to become more aware of how their content is distributed and promoted to ensure audiences are tuning in.
She says looking at the trends of what audiences are consuming, especially Māori audiences, helps to identify what kind of content Māori like and where the content is most accessible.
“Sometimes so much work is put into a production but it doesn’t necessarily get a good time slot or people don’t know that it exists.”
She says to understand what content young Māori are consuming is a good indicator to know what Māori audiences want.
Dame Hinewehi says her achievement was made possible with the help of many who mentored and supported her.
Oceania album cover. Released in 1999.
“I feel really honoured to represent my whānau, and my iwi, and to receive this honour on behalf of everyone. It’s been a collective effort.”
Her career has seen her at the front lines of championing the promotion of te reo Māori and te ao Māori, an aspiration not always well received.
Te reo Māori
At the now infamous 1999 Rugby World Cup in Twickenham, Dame Hinewehi sang the New Zealand national anthem only in te reo Māori. An estimated 100 million people watched worldwide, and the backlash was immediate.
She remembered how people were angry but she did not understand why.
“I felt like it was a real honour. I was really primed for it and really excited about representing my country. I am fiercely proud of my country and my people.”
Dame Hinewehi was in London at the time for the release of her first album, Oceania, featuring the highly successful waiata Kotahitanga.
“It was pretty confronting at the time. But I think, nearly 22 years on, we can be very proud with the use of te reo Māori, people learning te reo Māori and really wanting to embrace it as a part of our unique culture here in Aotearoa.”
Dame Hinewehi had already spent more than ten years working in television. Starting as a reporter for the TVNZ prime time programme Koha.
With her husband Geroge Bradfield of Ngāti Ranginui they set up Raukatauri Productions in 2004, producing the critically acclaimed series Mōteatea about the origins and meanings of traditional waiata. It was nominated for Best Māori Language Programme at the 2006 Air New Zealand Screen Awards and the 2010 Qantas Film and Television Awards.
In 2016, Dame Hinewehi was recognised as the Te Reo Māori Champion of the year at the WIFT NZ Awards (Women in Film and Television).
In 2019, she produced the chart topping album Waiata/Anthems. Featuring iconic New Zealand waiata by Bic Runga, Hātea Kapa Haka, Six60, TEEKS, Stan Walker, Benee, Kings, Tiki Taane, Shape Shifter, Tami Neilson and Drax Project.
Initially meant to be a bilingual album, but the artists wanted to record in Māori. She says it’s been challenging for the majority of them having little or no Māori language skills.
Sir Tīmoti Karetu translated the album which was recognised by Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori with the Tohu Huia te Reo / Supreme Award at the 2019 Ngā Tohu Reo Māori Awards.
Dame Hinewehi Mohi with Te Ururoa Flavell and Universal Music NZ chairman Adam Holt. 2019.
“It’s great to see Māori being supported by Pākehā and non-Māori allies who are learning te reo and embracing it as a part of our everyday lives.
“The music industry is responding to the desire for people to hear music but also to do their own music in Māori,” she says.
“We’re working on an industry-wide kaupapa to really grow the repertoir of waiata in Māori.”
Throughout her career, Hinewehi has dedicated herself to providing the best for her daughter Hineraukatauri – named after the Māori goddess of music and dance.
Now 25, Hineraukatauri lives with cerebral palsy and has been the driving inspiration for the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centres which Dame Hinewehi set up with her husband in 2004.
“Every part of her life is a challenge, but she is the most resilient person I know and inspires us every day.”
It was while in UK, in 1999, that they explored music therapy.
“Hineraukatauri responded immediately to it.” It was difficult to access a similar programme in Aotearoa so with the help of a lot of people, they established the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre.”
There are now three Raukatauri Music Therapy Centres around Aotearoa with a fourth music therapy centre opening soon.