I Am Hana

Creative New Zealand

On 14 September 1972, Hana Te Hemara along with members of Ngā Tamatoa, the Te Reo Māori Society, kaumātua and supporting groups presented a petition of over 30,000 signatures to parliament calling on the Government to prioritise the revitalisation of Te Reo Māori.

This day later became Māori Language Day in recognition of the mobilisation of support behind the petition. Then in 1975, it was expanded to become Māori Language Week, now known as Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.

Supporters present the Te Reo Māori Petition to Parliament; Auckland Star Newspaper; Copy Māori language petition memo, Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the presentation of the Māori language petition to parliament.  In recognition of that movement, the whānau and iwi of Hana Te Hemara have created I Am Hana a programme of community education and arts activity. 

“When Hana’s daughter Ramari Jackson-Paniora and niece Amokura Panoho approached Creative New Zealand for support, we recognised the importance of this kaupapa for te reo Māori and ngā toi Māori”, said Programme Manager, Māori Innovation and Advocacy, Tere Harrison. 

Tere continues, “The telling of this story of a wāhine Māori who left an impactful legacy for Taranaki and nationally for te reo Māori could not go unrecognised.  Hana wasn’t just an activist, she was a storyteller, a graphic designer, a change agent, she was an ‘artivist’, and Creative New Zealand proudly supports the mural portrait to be created by Mr G.”

From 30 August – 15 September, a five-storey mural of Hana Te Hemara (Te Atiawa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tahu), a founding member of Ngā Tamatoa, will be painted on the exterior of the Puke Ariki Library in New Plymouth’s CBD, by renowned artist Mr G. 

The start of this large-scale mural opens several commemorative events in New Plymouth including a panel discussion by Ngā Tamatoa members, a photo exhibition by John Miller (Ngāpuhi) workshops for kura and local artists with Mr G and cervical cancer health checks provided by Taranaki Health provider, Tui Ora in recognition of Hana’s early death at the age of 58 of cervical cancer.  Events end with a community celebration at the mural site on King Street. 

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa Chair Liana Poutu (Te Atiawa, Taranaki, Ngāti Maniapoto) the iwi collective driving this event, shared her delight at Ngā Tamatoa choosing Ngā Motu to commemorate this important milestone.

“Hana Te Hemara epitomised what it is to be a strong and tenacious woman. Her courage, along with so many from Ngā Tamatoa during the 1970s, paved the way for the thriving kura kaupapa, kōhanga reo and te reo Māori movement we have today,” said Liana.

“We are unashamedly proud of Aunty Hana as a leader, a mother, a fashionista, and a proud Puketapu wāhine. E kaha tautoko ana mātou i tēnei kaupapa mīharo, ka tika!”

Co-chair of New Plymouth District Council’s Te Huinga Taumata, Howie Tamati (Te Atiawa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāi Tahu), reflects on how Ngā Tamatoa and their legacy has shaped the resurgence of te reo Māori in Aotearoa.

“I am proud that my moko live in a time when they hear te reo Māori as part of their everyday lives, on the news, on social media. It is testament to the mahi of Ngā Tamatoa and Hana Te Hemara.

The I am Hana project is a wonderful way to honour her and the group’s commitment to the survival of our language,” said Howie. “It’s an honour to be part of bringing Hana’s story to life in this way for Taranaki residents and I am sure the mural on the Puke Ariki Library building is going to look stunning, be a real drawcard and an immense source of pride for her iwi, hapū, and whānau.

Hana Te Hemara (1940 – 1999) was one of the founding members of Ngā Tamatoa. She was a prominent Māori leader and activist who was passionate about the revival of the Māori language.
Her name and her embodiment as a person is the inspiration behind the I am Hana project.

Creative New Zealand provides support to I Am Hana through Te Hā o ngā Toi, the Māori Arts Strategy. More details on their website: www.iamhana.nz 


About Age Concern New Zealand 'on research'

At the heart of everything Age Concern does is a passion to see older people experience well-being, respect, dignity, and to be included and valued. We support, inform and advise older people on issues such as access to health care, transport, housing, financial entitlements, and social opportunities. We also work to combat real problems in our society, like elder abuse and neglect, chronic loneliness and social isolation. We provide specialist services with trained and qualified professionals able to give expert advice and assistance. Age Concern is a charity and relies on the support of volunteers and public donations to do much of the work we do. To help us help older people, please consider making a donation of your time or money. To see how, visit www.ageconcern.org.nz
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