Hinewehi Mohi has received a damehood as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours after a career in music that included the ground-breaking decision to sing the anthem in te reo Māori at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
The 57-year-old received the honour for her services to Māori, music and television.
She made history by singing the national anthem in te reo at the 1999 Rugby World Cup at Twickenham, with the historic rendition broadcast to millions worldwide.
“It was a moment in time that brought into question the priority or the lack of priority for te reo Māori and I think it really highlighted the divisions as well,” Dame Hinewehi told 1 NEWS.
The performance came out of the blue – even to officials – and shocked audiences back home in Aotearoa.
What caused controversy then is now the norm, paving the way for our national anthem to be sung in both English and Māori.
“I wonder if I had known the English words and I had sung the bilingual version, I wonder if there had been a different response and maybe it wouldn’t have prompted the shift,” she said.
Dame Hinewehi is used to breaking new ground, rising to fame with her double platinum te reo album Oceania, released in 2000.
“I travelled extensively in 2000 and really saw the reaction of audiences that there was something really special and unique about our culture represented through waiata,” she said.
The birth of her daughter with cerebral palsy led her to start New Zealand’s only music therapy clinic, Raukatauri, which helps hundreds of Kiwi families.
“It’s about the power of music - it’s about the power of music to connect us to each other and that’s where miracles happen,” she said.
She's also championed Māori TV through her own award-winning productions and helped other Kiwi artists find their own te reo voice through the critically-acclaimed waiata anthems album.
“When they shift into Māori, there is just a surge of excitement and it’s just thrilling to see and feel that this is us, this is who we are and to be proud of that.”