Ralph Hotere remembered

02:49, Feb 24 2014
Southland Times photo
Judith Ablett-Kerr of the Hotere Foundation Trust and Brian Bridges, a mate of the late artist, throw rosemary at the foot of one of Hotere’s works.

Rosemary on Black Phoenix helped mark the anniversary of the death of celebrated New Zealand artist and environmentalist Hone Papita Ruakura (Ralph) Hotere ONZ at Dunedin's Port Chalmers yesterday.

Members of the Port Chalmers community, friends and family of Hotere, who died on February 24 last year, remembered him as a great artist and a man of rare integrity at a remembrance service at his spiritual home, St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church.

They then laid bunches of rosemary near Hotere's famed sculpture Black Phoenix in the Hotere Garden Oputae at Observation Point overlooking the Port.

Close mate and golfing buddy Brian Bridges, of Port Chalmers, recalled first meeting the artist in 1981, encouraged by a mutual friend who told Bridges "Ralph's a painter".

So on meeting Hotere, he asked him where he was working and whether he was painting houses.

"Ralph said 'No, I'm an artist'."


Bridges said golf was their thing and they would head down to the course after Ralph had cooked muttonbird and vegetables.

Once when Bridges got a hole-in-one, Hotere changed the rules about the consequent shout, Bridges said.

"The usual thing is when you get a hole-in-one you shout for all your mates. But Ralph changed the rules, he shouted for all of us instead.

"He was a very generous man and I miss him a lot. He was a champion of the underdog, a real true man. "

Jan Tucker, a pool buddy of Hotere's at the port's Mackie's Hotel and former chairwoman of the Chalmers Community Board, remembered Hotere as "Ralph - his beret, his twinkle in his eye, the pool queuer, Ralph the pool player".

Tucker said down at the pub Hotere would be right in the thick of debates over local issues, at one point participating in legal action against Port Otago's development of the port's Back Beach and then helping raise the court costs when the action was unsuccessful.

Hotere's widow Mary McFarlane paid tribute to the Port Chalmers community which, she said, Hotere loved.

"This was his place for over 35 years. Most of his creative output originated in this village. He could have worked anywhere in the world - Italy, France, Germany, or the UK or USA - but he felt most at home here.

"This was his enduring base."

If he had been away, the first place he would go was down to Aramoana for mussels, McFarlane said.

Judith Ablett-Kerr from the Hotere Foundation Trust said Hotere first contacted her more than 12 years ago to achieve the return of sculptures, including a portion his own Black Phoenix (the remainder is exhibited at Te Papa), created from the burnt out wreck of a boat, to Observation Point where his studio had been located before the port redevelopment.

"It told me what that particular point meant to him. And what people meant to him."

The Southland Times