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Monday, February 04, 2008

Farewell to an old comrade (Hone Tuwhare)

Len Gale farewells Hone Tuwhare, his old comrade and workmate at the Otahuhu Railway Workshops.

PEOPLE'S POET 1922---2008
Hone Tuwhare was a part of the fragile bridge that exists between workers in struggle, the political left movement and their allies, art workers.
Hone laboured alongside his father on market gardens as a child. He had little schooling, yet he scored well in his trade exams as an apprentice boilermaker at the Otahuhu Railway Workshops.
That’s where he received his grounding in Marxism, where he also met Gorky and Steinbeck as well as Lenin. Otahuhu was his university. Towards the end of WWII Hone and his mates joined the army and eventually served in the J-force, the Western allies' occupation force in Japan, where he found a role as singer/lyric writer.
Hone went on to work and learn on Hydro construction sites in the Waikato. He ventured into the Pacific, teaching fellow Polynesians welding and trade unionism.
Gradually his talents were recognised. The publication of his first book of poems, No Ordinary Sun, put academia on notice. Here was a grass roots talent!
At public functions Hone never felt at ease with the upper crust and he often clowned around to send them up.
Hone severed his membership with the NZ Communist Party at the confusing time of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, yet he remained a Marxist to the end.
Janet Hunt’s biography Hone Tuwhare is a quite wonderful book about a unique man who could laugh in prose and in verse at the trials of a lifetime, who was at home in both the Maori and the Pakeha worlds. Hone was a taonga that comes this way so rarely.
Len Gale.

1 comment:

Allie said...

Thanks to Len Gale for his moving Tribute "Farewell to an old comrade (Hone Tuwhare). It makes me realise that I have missed out, that I have lost a chance to meet a unique man who has clearly touched you Len. You could have written twice as much and I would have read it just as hungrily.
But you can never summarise a life or a man's contribution to the people around him.
Thanks Len for trying to distil what Hone was to you and others for those of us who didn't have the pleasure of his friendship.
I hope that your effort will prod some other workmates who knew him to put pen to paper.