Hinemoana Baker

Dear Mother Basillise

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Kia ora!

My name is Hinemoana Baker, and on my Dad's side I'm from Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tahu, Te Āti Awa and Pākehā descent. My marae are Kuku marae in Ōhau, and Ōtākou down on the peninsula where the albatross nest. My mum's ancestors are from Bavaria and England.

For the last year I have been the Creative New Zealand Victoria University Writer in Residence in Wellington. This position has allowed me to begin writing a new kind of project - for me anyway (I'm known more as a poet). I've written 40,000 words of a new book, currently called 'Dear Mother Basillise'.

This book tells two haunting family stories: my father's time spent as a child in a Catholic orphanage in Nelson, and alongside that, my own story of trying to become a parent and experiencing infertility. On a wider level the book is about whakapapa, genealogy and family. It's about losing a parent, about what it really means to be a parent, what it means to lose the opportunity to do that. It's about me connecting with my father through our shared experiences of grief.

It's been an amazing year. Wakeful nights staying at the orphanage where Dad was as a kid; tearful interviews with elderly men who were children there; crying with laughter sharing stories with other women who, like me, have spent years trying to conceive babies of their own. It's been a year of stories: tales of kids punished, kids forced to bury their toys in wet cement. Kids so hungry they ate the millet paste they were supposed to feed to the ducks.

I've cried on photos of kingfishers and syringes, laid on the graves of nuns and smelled the dusty door of a priest's mausoleum. I've wondered at memories of dead horses shot by children, of children who never existed, and babies who nearly did. I've counted the days of my inescapable menstrual cycle, because I can't stop doing that, though I've long since stopped trying to get pregnant. I've stayed at a convent where now the only nun is made of concrete. I've marvelled at the heiroglyphics of fertility charts I filled out for years on end.

Many friends, whānau and funding organisations have supported me, and with their help, I've produced and published three books of poetry and four CDs, and I've edited and contributed to many more. I've travelled all around New Zealand and to Indonesia, Australia, Fiji, Europe and the US to read, perform and write. I have been incredibly fortunate in my creative life.

This article from the Nelson Evening Mail gives a bit more detail about this current project. 

My website gives some background about me and my work so far.

I've never felt such a drive to continue working full time in order to complete a creative project. Perhaps because of the subject matter, and the age of my father, the momentum for this book is very powerful. Most books take a couple of years to write, and this one's no exception. I need one more year of writing and researching full time to take my book to the point where I can submit it to my publisher. I'm asking my 'Boosted' supporters to help me with the first six months of that.

I would so appreciate any koha you feel to give, no matter how small. Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu :-)

Mauri ora





(Many thanks to film-maker, editor and archivist Angela Boyd who filmed and edited my 'Boosted' video)




    Kia ora koutou ngā kaitautoko, te hunga aroha ki te hunga kaitoi.

    I know there is a poem or a lyric that expresses this feeling perfectly, somewhere, by someone, but right at this moment everything eludes me. Except, that is, to give you all, once again, my massive thanks. Each and every one of you whose names and or 'Anonymous'es are right there on the left in those pretty squares. You. Yes, YOU. And also you, the ones who donated money and so many other koha through this campaign in ways other than using this website. Tēnā koutou katoa.

    I've just handed in a funding application for the second six months of the year this book will take to get to final draft. On Monday I start the writing again in earnest, full time. That's thanks to all of you.

    From me and all those who love me, especially my Dad, a huge mihi and an appropriate but very enthusiastic hug to each of you.

    Stay in touch, as will I.

    Aroha nui





    As of this minute: $16,356.37. THAT'S 109%.

    Last Thursday night, with a week still to run of the campaign, we *smashed* my target of $15,000.

    I am, as the young people say nowadays (or at least they would if they were as hip as me), super stoked.

    I want to thank every one of you 234 TOP QUALITY HUMAN BEINGS. Actually, there's more than that - some of you have donated directly to my bank account, so thank you fullas, too!

    As well as actually donating to the campaign, so many of you have:

    - Told your friends about this project even when it meant a vaguely fake change of subject in the conversation and maybe some pretty awkward silence

    - Sent your mates slightly spammy emails telling them I am a worthwhile cause, even though there are hundreds of those out there

    - Blackmailed your relatives (who may also be my relatives) into donating with horrifying tales of how awkward it'll be otherwise at the next whānau reunion

    - Shared my campaign on your Facebook, Twitter, blogs and/or mail-outs

    - Given me invaluable advice about how to run this bugger, especially in the early and final stages, and actually every stage in between, because I really had no idea what I was doing

    - Promised to feed me morning, afternoon and evening meals for an indefinite period of time if the campaign didn't work out

    - Sent me beautiful poems and emails in response to these newsletters, some of which I still haven't answered but please bear with me

    - Sent me koha to help me through February, which was the month in between my residency and this Boosted campaign finishing

    - Checked the Boosted website, sometimes several times and day, and sent me excited texts and messages as the total began to climb

    - Shouted me lunch/coffee/dinner/movies just cos you're awesome

    One of you, who shall remain nameless but he knows who he is *cough* Andrew Dalziel has just spent his weekend putting a whole bunch more memory in my ancient laptop so it wouldn't fall over dead before I got a chance to send you this thank you email.

    And of course one of you *cough* Angela Boyd made it all possible right from the start by spending her weekend, and a good deal of time after that, making my Boosted video. From the initial 'what the hell am I doing here Ange help me' conversations, to the lugging of gear up Kelburn stairways. Then, of course, the actual filming, the polite eating of the very average catering I provided on set, and finally her sterling editing work of what was, I have to say, quite a lot of very silly footage of me stumbling my way through a non-script while trying to be coherent and wearing a spangly bow tie.

    So what I'm trying to say, in a nutshell, is:

    Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini - my strength is not the strength of one, but the strength of many.


    What does this success mean for me and my writing?

    With this support on board, I will be able to work full-time writing my new book 'Dear Mother Basillise' for six months. I'm not sure I can properly communicate what it means to me - to any artist, in fact - to have this kind of time to spend focussed entirely on one important project, knowing all the bills will be paid. It's not only a massive vote of confidence in my talent and abilities, but also a huge weight of anxiety off the creative process.

    I will be seeking other sources of funding to enable me to write for another six months when this first period is over - in total that's a year, and that's what I reckon I'll need to take this manuscript to the point of submission to a publisher.

    I want to thank all of you, once again, who helped spread the word and/or bunged me some actual bucks. And furthermore, I want to thank Simon Bowden at the NZ Arts Foundation and all the amazing staff at Boosted for their energy, enthusiasm and wisdom.

    Especially you, Bryna!

    And lastly, I thank Brett and Jemaine of Flight of the Conchords, who I'm pretty sure coined the word motherflippers, a word I have been overusing ever since.


    The future

    I will keep people periodically up to date with progress on the book via my Facebook page, my Twitter feed and my website newsletter. So if you know of anyone else who could be interested in that kind of occasional burst of hilarious behind-the-scenes neurosis, please feel free to give them this link to sign up to receive my newsletter:

    Sign up for my newsletter, motherflippers :-)



    There's still time...

    If you are some kind of amazing mega-fan (bless you) and/or you haven't donated yet and you really want to, the page will be open for another two days, and anything you want to give will be very much appreciated. Minimum donation $5.

    And now only another 36 donors to break the Boosted record of 269!!

    Just saying :-)

    Take care, lovely folks. I promise not to use any more speech bubbles on photos in any future correspondence.


    Aroha nui




    PS: This is it - the very last cute baby pic I have. Just as well the campaign's coming to an end. Phew. Older sister is support in this one. Sponsored by Para.





    Wow. 101% and still seven days to go!!

    I am so blown away by the tautoko and aroha that has flowed towards me and this project. This is the first time I've ever done anything like this to seek writing time, and I am humbled by the result.

    Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou katoa. I'll write more tomorrow when I pick up my laptop charger from the place I left it in my excitement tonight, haha!!

    Meantime, aroha tino nui :-)








    Wow wow wow! YOU PEOPLE ARE AMAZING. Thank you all so much for your incredible generosity. I am so stoked.

    We have 13 days to go, and if 102 people donate $20 each over that time we will not only exceed the target of $15,000, but we will BREAK THE BOOSTED RECORD FOR NUMBER OF DONORS!

    LET'S DO IT!

    Even if it's only $5, hit the DONATE button, or pass on this link to your nearest and dearest (and those who owe you favours you haven't yet called in):


    Aroha nui






    I still can't find the proper words to say thank you for this.

    I am still blown away by the number of people who say 'sorry it couldn't be more' when they write their messages alongside their donations. 

    I am stoked that there are 129 of you who feel strongly enough about me and this project to give something, anything, towards it. 

    There are 15 days to go, so I'll be doing some final reminders in the coming days. Please feel free to share this link with anyone who might be interested in supporting 'Dear Mother Basillise' - http://www.boosted.org.nz/projects/dear-mother-basillise

    Meanwhile, here's a link to a radio interview about this project I did a while ago with Kim Hill. I particularly like the part where she stops me from saying the word 'journey'...haha! I could sense Bill Manhire nodding in agreement.


    Aroha tino nui






    Thank you so much all of you - I can hardly believe it! 109 donors! (The record is 270 on one campaign, let's smash it).

    One of the things with 'Boosted' is that if you don't make your final total, you don't get anything. All donations get bounced back to their sources. I totally understand and support this system - it's really the only way something like 'Boosted' can run.


    SO. I'm about to make a sandwich board and go for a stroll up the Strand in Whakatane. For your part, if there's anyone you know who might be interested in this project, please feel free to forward this link, along with my thanks. Any sharing (Facebook, Twitter, email) from anyone is so greatly appreciated, and it really works.

    *dons sandwich board* *flicks hair*

    See you's later on.

    Aroha nui



    PS: This is me and Dad when we visited Sunnybank, now 'Garindale Estate', last year. It was a weird day for Dad. Lots of memories and lots of spaces where memories should be.


  • Your Undies Are Showing


    Kia ora anō tātou,

    To say I'm grateful is really an understatement. It's been an amazing week - watching as your generosity and aroha rolls in. It's been humbling to realise how much support is out there for me and for this project in particular. To be over half way at such an early stage is more than I could have imagined.

    So. Thank you! Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. ALL EIGHTY THREE OF YOU.

    One of the recurrent themes in the messages you have been sending along with your koha has been that you 'wish it could be more' or you're 'sorry it's not much'. My answer in every case has been: Please don't apologise for what you are giving! I am grateful for anything anyone is moved to give, however small: it means a lot to me.

    I've published three poetry books and produced CDs - and I've managed to do this at the same as working over the last 15 years or so. But this book is an entirely different creature. It feel that because of the emotional, historical and family territory I'm traversing here, this project deserves my full attention.

    A highlight of the last week, apart from such a successful launch to this campaign, has been the great feedback I've been receiving about our Boosted video. Thanks again Ange Boyd! For your entertainment and edification, here's a 'behind the scenes' glimpse of the making of that video. Again, Ange put this together. It begins with me learning why they call it a 'clapper board':

    'Your Undies Are Showing': Behind the Scenes of Hinemoana's 'Boosted' Video

    Heh heh.

    There are still four weeks to go of the campaign, and I'll keep you updated as we go. I post regularly about my writing and about this project (as well as other stuff) on my Facebook and Twitter pages: 

    Hinemoana's Facebook Page

    Hinemoana's Twitter Feed

    Thanks again all of you - I'll be in touch again soon. And in the meantime, I hope you are all enjoying your Waitangi Day, in whichever way means the most to you.





    Your Undies Are Showing
  • What the heck - 41% in two days!


    I'm totally blown away. Seriously, thank you all so much for your incredible generosity - all 65 of you! I'm not sure if this is a 'Boosted' record but it's certainly the most amazing feeling at this end.


    I've been emailing all of you who provided your email contacts when you registered, but if any of you have fallen between the cracks somehow (you, Mark H, for example) please accept my sincere thanks and gratitude.

    Donating is simple - you just click that big red button then register your basic details with 'Boosted', then give your credit card details - it takes about 3 minutes. If you or anyone you know are trying to donate but you don't have a credit card, please email me and I can give you some other options: hinemoana@hinemoana.co.nz. All your contact details are kept confidential, though you can select that they be passed on to me so I can say thank you :-)

    Meantime, here is another impossibly adorable picture of myself and my Dad back in the Day. Crayfish almost as tall as me. But not as cute, I don't think. 

    Aroha nui



    What the heck - 41% in two days!
  • It's all go!


    It's all go.

    And already the donations are rolling in - you fullas are amazing.

    Thank you so much to 'Anonymous' and 'Sian Torrington'. Got quite tearful when I logged on this morning to find that we were already at $600 and the campaign hadn't even officially launched.

    But now it has! As of now! Yes now!

    So yes. Please feel free to watch the video (make sure you shade your eyes from the searing glare of the bow tie sequins) and if you can, press the 'donate' button. Any small amount helps - seriously. All donations are tax deductible. This page explains all the things that 'Boosted' offers to donors.

    At the moment I'm up in Matata, staying with my Dad for a bit. It's good to be here with him as this campaign gets off the ground. I'm sitting here on the couch, looking out at Whale Island and Rurima Islands, on an incredible summer day, feeling pretty tangiweto crybaby as everybody's generosity rolls in. 

    Thank you so much for your tautoko. Mā te huruhuru te manu ka rere.



    It's all go!