Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby: Not sir by chance

Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby was given a knighthood for his service to Māori on this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

He is known by many names: Papa Hec to some, Hector to others. And now Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby. You may not have heard of him but it is a name you should know.  His name is known all over the Pacific for his huge contributions to the revitalisation of celestial navigation, as a master carver, Te Rarawa elder, a font of cultural knowledge, for the revitalisation of waka building and waka hourua (double-hulled boat), as kaitiaki of Waitangi waka Ngātokimatawhaorua, and as he man responsible for the first return journey of Māori to Rarotonga by traditional methods after more than 600 years.

In February, I was extremely lucky to attend ACE Aotearoa’s Hui-Fono (an annual conference for Pasifika and Māori educators working in the Adult Community Education space) in Te Tai Tokerau – the Far North where we got to hear Sir Hec speak at his beautiful home in Aurere. Turning onto the Doubtless Bay Road after Te Awanui if you are heading north, you drive a few kilometres to the turn off to Aurere. There is no sign. Just a bridge that leads to a dirt road. Our two coach buses crossed that bridge, and although we couldn’t see the bridge under our bus we were assured that it was safe as Papa Hec was a bridge builder before he retired to carve waka and learn celestial navigation.

About two kilometres up the dirt road, we came to a clearing. A grassy hill, bordered by a warehouse, a carved whare, a waka hourua resting under a tarpaulin, and a house that had been extended several times looking out onto the expanse of the Doubtless Bay Sound.

On top of the emerald green, grassy hill was a ring of pou. And inside the ring was a group waiting to welcome us on. Papa Hec sat in the middle on a seat next to his golf cart. The scenery was breath taking. When Papa Hec began to speak his reo was so fluid, initially our group of over 100 sat far away from him. But as his sharing continued we crept forward mesmerised by his kōrero, and even when the Northland skies decided to sprinkle us with rain we still sat there listening intently.

Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby sitting next to his golf cart
Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby sitting in his special chair next to his golf cart

The circle that we sat inside was actually a compass. Each of the 32 pou, set 11 degrees apart represented a direction, and when he began to swivel in his chair we realised that through his own design Sir Hector had manufactured a seat centred in the middle of his compass, complete with adjustable sights to study the night sky. It was here that Sir Hec began to study celestial navigation guided by Master Navigator Mau Piailug who came to stay with Sir Hec at Aurere to teach wayfinding and navigating using the sun, stars, clouds, other indicators of nature, and the importance of finding true north.

32 pou on a hill at Te Aurere
32 pou on a hill at Aurere

I came away from Aurere, the lucky winner of a copy of Sir Hec’s biography written by Jeff Evans. I devoured that book, hungry for more and inspired by the ability of our ancestors to traverse the largest ocean in the world with ease. The things that are shared in that book made me realise that our hour with Sir Hec shed very little light on his amazing achievements and contribution to navigation worldwide.

Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby and Jan-Hai with a copy of his biography
Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby and Jan-Hai with a copy of his biography

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to hear such a man speak in person at his beautiful home in Te Tai Tokerau, and we as a community that spans the Pacific Ocean are immensely grateful for your efforts and willingness to share your knowledge and inspiration to find our true North.

Thank you Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Ngai-Iwi Busby.

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Libraries Learning Specialist

Joseph Churchward – New Zealand’s man of fonts

CoverIn the list of Queen’s Birthday Honours was the following Queen’s Service Medal:

Mr Joseph CHURCHWARD, of Wellington.
For services to typography.

With those letters, a man of letters was recognised, and honoured. Joseph has had an astonishing career. He has handcrafted over 570 original typefaces and this makes him the world’s most prolific typeface designer.

There was a lovely item celebrating him on TVNZ: More letters for NZ typographer. He talked about some of his fonts including Marianna, named after his daughter:

Mari­anna was fat in those days and it was a fat design … You were plumpy … it was plumpy.

Meena Kadri‘s article Full character set on Churchward, and the book about him by David Bennewith, reveals a character that New Zealand should cherish:

Unabated by less favour­able recep­tion to his typo­graphic endeav­ours, Church­ward has pur­sued unso­li­cited design work through­out his career. He dili­gently dis­patched these typo­graphic ‘sug­ges­tions’ to tele­vi­sion net­works, polit­ical parties and gov­ern­ment depart­ments. The book’s inclu­sion of some of the rejec­tion let­ters to this approach serve as a testi­mony of his ded­ic­a­tion to a life of let­ters and let­ter­forms – and amus­ingly includes a polite reply from the Rugby Union man­ager in 1998, set in Comic Sans.

Congratulations to Joseph on his well deserved honour.

Find out more at Christchurch City Libraries:

More about Joseph Churchward:

Poet Fleur Adcock honoured for services to literature

Fleur Adcock has been honoured in the Queen’s Birthday honours today:

Expatriate poet Fleur Adcock is grateful to New Zealand for the affection it has shown her, despite her having lived in England since 1963. Ms Adcock was named a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in the Queen’s Birthday Honours today. ODT

Contemporary Authors has a good exploration of her work and career (including stints as an assistant librarian). She is currently considered a candidate for poet laureate of Great Britain.

Adcock … travels frequently to give readings and lectures … it is understood that her reader-friendly poetry has won her a lasting role in the history of British and New Zealand letters. According to John Greening, her poems “remain fresh because she rarely lapses into jargon.” Greening concluded: “[Adcock] is an insouciant elegist, celebrator of life’s sweet symmetry and its lewd gargoyles, one whose native senses flower because they are so deeply rooted in her dreams of elsewhere.”

See the full list of those honoured