First... and last honour for artist

Last updated 18:10 20/08/2014

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Jonathan Mane-Wheoki is preparing to die and knows the honour he received today is unique.

“My first and my last,” he said after Governor General Jerry Mateparae installed him as Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

The 70-year-old arts professor, nearing the end with terminal cancer, said he was quite calm about death now.

He’s recently been north to the Hokianga, where he grew up, to see where his iwi will bury him.

“I am relaxed about it, what else can I be?”

Professor of fine arts at Elam, he was honoured for his services to the arts, particularly for his contribution to ensuring Maori and Pacific arts had its place in the national consciousness.

He says he feels it was an honour for “sheer dogged determination….

“A life of ruthless dedication to the arts,” he said.

In accepting the order, he said he thought of his parents who grew up in a simple tin hut in the Far North.

“It means a lot to my family; they say my parents would have been proud.”

Also picking up an honour today was fashion designer Francis Hooper who became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, coming in behind his wife Denise L’Estrange-Corbet who got the gong several years earlier.

Hooper was colourfully dressed in his own World fashion label outfit, in contrast to the formal military and suit-and-tie formality of the others.

“It’s a lovely award to get,” he said, “something for what we do.”

Others to receive honours today included Air Vice-Marshal Peter Stockwell of the Royal New Zealand Air Force who became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

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