Hotere flown to marae for tangi

Last updated 17:09 01/03/2013

An emotional ceremony held at his hometown of Mitimiti marked the farewell of Ralph Hotere, one of New Zealand's most influential artists.

Ralph Hotere tangi
Ralph Hotere's coffin arrives by Air Force helicopter at the Mitimiti marae in Northland

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Artist Ralph Hotere, who died last weekend, was given a last look at his beloved mountain before a helicopter delivered him to his final resting place today.

The Dunedin-based painter's body was flown to Mitimiti, on the edge of the Hokianga habour, by an Air Force chopper then taken in a black Hummer to Matihetihe marae.

Whanau and other mourners welcomed Hotere into the meeting house with a challenge and a rousing powhiri before gathering inside to grieve.

Hotere's family had requested the pilot do one final circuit of Tarakeha mountain above where the 81-year-old grew up, an area which features heavily in his paintings.

"It was really nice to be able to meet the family and ask them what they wanted him to see," said flight lieutenant Will Neill.

Hotere's brother Moss Hotere said he was pleased the body had been returned to the north.

"It was always his wish to come back on a helicopter," he said.

Hotere's widow Mary McFarlane and one of his sisters accompanied the body from Dunedin. The painter died on Sunday after a long illness.

The tangi is expected to last at least three days, with numerous visitors making the winding drive down a dusty gravel road already this afternoon.

Hotere will likely be buried on Mt Hione, or Zion, on Monday.

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