Page 4: Later life
Ngāpuhi; boilermaker, poet
This biography, written by Janet Hunt, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2010.
Awards and honours
Hone Tuwhare’s achievements as a poet were recognised with many awards and honours. He was twice Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago (1969 and 1974); Hocken Fellow (University of Otago, 1983); German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Fellow (Berlin, 1985) and Writing Fellow at the University of Auckland (1991). He received Te Waka Toi Award (1991) and a Leading Writers’ Grant (1992). He was twice awarded honorary degrees of Doctor of Literature (University of Otago, 1998, and University of Auckland, 2005).
Tuwhare was New Zealand’s second poet laureate, from 1999 to 2001. The Arts Foundation named him one of 10 living icons of the New Zealand arts in 2003, the same year that he, Michael King and Janet Frame received inaugural Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement. A selection of his poetry was set to music and sold on CD in 2005, and there were full-house arts-festival tributes to him in Wellington in 2006 and Auckland in 2007.
Achievement and personality
Hone Tuwhare was one of New Zealand’s best-known and best-loved writers, who stood at the intersection of two cultures, Māori and Pākehā. Tuwhare, the writer, was admired for his honesty of expression. He powerfully dramatised his poems, bringing them to life for thousands who heard him read, in schools and community halls, art galleries, literary festivals, pubs and lecture theatres over the course of a career spanning nearly 50 years.
Tuwhare, the man, was a larger-than-life personality. He had an enormous appetite for food and especially enjoyed mutton birds and seafood with a glass of red wine. He also had a good singing voice, loved music, particularly jazz, and had a discerning eye for art. He was inflamed by injustice and could be unpredictable, irascible and protective of his privacy. Equally, he was known for his humanity, generosity, humour and compassion. He inspired and was inspired by a network of writers, musicians, artists and academics both in New Zealand and overseas. Tuwhare also took pleasure in teaching and working with young people.
In 1992 Tuwhare purchased a cottage overlooking the ocean at Kākā Point on the South Otago coast and hunkered down to write. His last tour, in 2004, took him back to Northland. He died on 16 January 2008 in Dunedin and was buried on a hillside in his family’s urupā (cemetery) near Kaikohe. His grave is marked by a simple river stone inscribed by his friend, the sculptor Chris Booth.