Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples was among those who paid tribute on Thursday at a memorial service in Dunedin, to the renowned artist Ralph Hotere (Hone Papita Raukura Hotere), who died on Sunday aged 81.
He was the first Maori painter to be included in a history of New Zealand art.
Dr Sharples says it was a special event in his life when he arrived many years ago at Auckland University to begin studying, and Ralph Hotere took him under his wing.
He says it was the start of a long friendship.
Dr Sharples says although he wasn't a very good interpreter of art, he recognised Ralph Hotere's sincerity, the depth of meaning in his paintings, and the recognition he had in New Zealand and overseas.
He says Ralph Hotere was a philosopher who made people think, and was a strong advocate for the rights of Maori, during difficult times in the 1960s and 70s.
His tangi will be held on Friday at Matihetihe marae Mitimiti on the coast west of Kaikohe.