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Sir James Wallace Knighted

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A key player in the Maori language revival and New Zealand's foremost art collector were among today's local recipients of Queen's Birthday honours. Karla Akuhata and Fairfax report. This afternoon little girls with ribbons will be dancing on Hamilton woman Dame Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira's front lawn. They will dance for their grandmother who is too ill to dance herself – the woman they call mama, the woman who helped pull te reo Maori from the brink of extinction, the woman who today became a dame. Dame Katerina, 78, joined prolific Waikato arts collector Sir James Wallace who became a knight in today's Queen's Birthday honours.

Sir James, chairman of the Waitoa-based Wallace Corporation, owns an art collection which now numbers more than 5000 pieces. Dame Katerina was given the honour for her services to Maori language. A key founder of the Maori language programme Te Ataarangi and the Kura Kaupapa movement, she has been at the forefront of the revival of te reo Maori for decades. She was too ill to talk to the Waikato Times after contracting a respiratory illness while visiting a son in America last month, but when asked by daughter Erana Brewerton how she would like to celebrate the honour Dame Katerinasaid she wanted to dance. "We are going to organise all the little girl mokopunas to dance on the front lawn.

They will have ribbons and they will dance." Dame Katerina, who affiliates to the Ngati Porou tribe, was born in Tokomaru Bay in 1932 and trained as a teacher and art educator. She has nine children with her husband Junior Te Ratu Karepa Mataira and 50 grandchildren including one great-great-grandchild. In 1998 she was made a Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit and was also invited by the Chilean government and the Rapanui people to Easter Island to share the Maori experience of recovering te reo Maori. She has written several ground-breaking novels in Maori including Te Atea, Makorea and Rehua along with award-winning children's books Maui and the Big Fish, Marama Taniweto and Nga Mokonui a Rangi. Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples said the honour bestowed on Dame Katerina was a tribute to more than 40 years of leadership and scholarship in the Maori language revival movement.

Meanwhile, the Waikato's new knight, Sir James, recounted how his relationship with art began on a scholarship in Boston where the Kings College student, then 16, experienced the "great" opera and galleries for the first time. "I felt feverishly excited," he said. He began collecting art in the 1960s and in 1992 transferred the collection to a charitable trust – The Wallace Arts Trust – which he continues to fund as a way to support New Zealand art.

The collection is held at the historic Pah Homestead, Auckland. Sir James hopes his knighthood will encourage others, including wealthy businessmen, to get involved in the arts. " "Wealthy young lawyers and businessmen don't seem to put their hands in their pockets for anything in particular, and they need to because we won't last that long. I think those younger lawyers and businessmen are just too self-centred and not willing to sacrifice anything, too greedy in fact." The James Wallace Trust has initiated more than 80 commissions and financially supports other art organisations in New Zealand. Twenty years ago Sir James established the annual Wallace Art Awards, the longest surviving and richest annual art awards of their kind in Australasia. - Waikato Times - Stuff.co.nz