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Rule Breaker & Landscape Painter Top Creatives in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Dame Hinewehi Mohi. Photo: Daniel Boud.
Sir Grahame Sydney. Photo: Nathan Secker.
Richard Benge. Photo: Supplied.
Ladi6. Photo: Supplied.
25 members of the creative and arts community have been included in the latest bout of recognitions - see who has made the list.


For someone who has made her mark on Aotearoa for her passionate support of te reo Māori through the creative mediums - accolades from Queen of England wouldn’t have something that Hinewehi Mohi had on her ‘to do’ list.

In fact, there would have been a time that would have been considered impossible. The act that made her an international headline - her decision to sing the New Zealand national anthem entirely in Māori for the first time ever at an All Blacks match - was done so on English soil, in a World Cup match against England, without the slightest hint of the English language. 

But today, it’s ‘arise Dame Hinewehi Mohi’ - one of two members of the creative community to receive the top honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for 2021.

 Of course, Dame Hinewehi has contributed so much more to our cultural landscape than just revolutionising a pre-game ritual.  

Her championing of te reo Māori first as a performer with her double-platinum album Oceania at the turn of the century was a pivotal chapter in reintroducing the language to our airwaves consistently. 

Currently pushing the cause as APRA’s manager of Māori Music Growth & Development, Dame Hinewehi has had a crucial role as the producer of the successful Waiata/Anthems album in 2019, and in countless hours of Māori television content. 

On top of that - in a subject close to her heart through her aroha for Hineraukatauri, her daughter with cerebral palsy - she co-founded the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre (RMTC), which now supports more than 500 people each week across Auckland, Whangārei and Hawke’s Bay. 

Latest creative Knight

The creative community can also celebrate another Knight of the realm, with Sir Grahame Sydney recognised for his immense contribution to the arts world.

His works - particularly his landscapes of his beloved Central Otago - have adorned the walls of all the country’s major galleries during a career that so far spans half a century.

Sir Grahame’s paintings haven’t just been breath-taking, they’ve been record-breaking too.  His 1999 Regions of the Heart: 25-year retrospective toured New Zealand’s public galleries for two years, setting record public attendances.

Sir Grahame Sydney. Photo: Nathan Secker.

His all-round creative prowess has seen him turn his hand to photography and writing, contributing to several books including White Silence and Grahame Sydney’s Central Otago and Promised Land: From Dunedin to the Dunstan Goldfields.

He was also a driving force behind the creation of the Henderson House Artists in Residence Programme in Alexandra and he now chairs the Henderson Arts Trust.

Sir Grahame accepted the honour not just as an acknowledgement of his personal work, but to “how important the arts are.”

Ramp by Grahame Sydney, watercolour and gouache, 2017. 

Behind the scenes superstars

Arts administration may not be the most glamorous role in the creative world but there are many who dedicate themselves to providing platforms and opportunities that many may not otherwise have.

Some of those are given a moment in the spotlight in the honours list, including Art Access Aotearoa’s Executive Director Richard Benge. Tirelessly advocating for the importance creativity and accessibility can play in the lives of those who need it most, Benge has been rewarded for his devotion to a fully inclusive arts community by being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Richard Benge. Photo: Supplied.

Creative Northland Chair Dr Benjamin Pittman, who has played crucial roles for Auckland Art Gallery and the Hundertwasser Art Centre has been made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit, as has former Hastings Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers, her community work including an 18-year stint on the Board of Arts Inc. Heretaunga.

Toi Māori expert Ted Ngataki (MNZM), whose whakairo (carvings) adorn the walls of many public institutions and Kiribati artist Louisa Humphry (Honorary MNZM) have been honoured for preserving their cultures through creative means, as have husband/wife duo Posenai Mavaega and Tanya Muagututi’a for their 28 years of driving award-winning community arts group Pacific Underground.

Two names that may not be familiar at first glance, Dr Graeme Downes and Karoline Fuarosa Park-Tamati, have been included for their contribution to our music scene. Downes is best known as the frontman of The Verlaines, part of the Dunedin Sound that shone brightly in the 80s, while Park-Tamati is a household name for many under her stage name Ladi6, an award-winning and hugely successful hip hop artist.

Ladi6. Photo: Supplied.

The Big Idea congratulates all those who have been recognised - especially for their passionate and dedicated contributions to our creative community.

List of creatives honoured in the New Zealand Order of Merit: Queen’s Birthday list 2021 (bios available here)

Dames Companion (DNZM)

Mrs Hinewehi Mohi, MNZM for services to Māori, music and television

Knights Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM)

Mr Grahame Charles Sydney, ONZM for services to art

Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM)

Ms Jamie Bull for services to the performing arts and the community

Ms Takutai Moana Natasha Kemp for services to street dance and youth

Dr Benjamin Frank Pittman for services to Māori and art

Professor Harold John Simpson for services to art education

Ms Darien Ruth Takle for services to the performing arts

Mr Philip Spencer Trusttum for services to art

Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)

Mr Richard Douglas Benge for services to arts accessibility

Ms Cynthia Margaret Bowers for services to the community and local government

Dr Graeme Alexander Downes for services to music and music education

Mrs Margaret Marie Farry-Williams for services to the fashion industry and charitable fundraising

Ms Mary Louise Kisler for services to art history and curation

Mr Posenai Samoa Mavaega for services to Pacific performing arts

Ms Tanya Soliali'i Mavaega (Tanya Muagututi’a) for services to Pacific performing arts

Mx Mani Bruce Mitchell for services to intersex advocacy and education

Mr Ted Turua Ngataki, for services to Māori and the community.

Mrs Karoline Fuarosa Park-Tamati for services to music

Ms Tere Veronica Rapley for services to music and television

Honorary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Mrs Louisa Humphry for services to the Kiribati community and culture

Queen's Service Medal (QSM)

Ms Jacquetta Bell for services to the arts and the community

Mr Charles Edwin Campbell for services to the performing arts

Miss Judith Elaine Livingston for services to music and the community

Mr Alan John Reekie for services to performing arts governance

Mrs Yvonne Esther Roberts for services to quilting and patchwork craft


Written by

The Big Idea Editor

7 Jun 2021

The Big Idea Editor