Fowler, Percy Leo

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Fowler was born into a Lancashire family and emigrated with them to New Zealand in 1910. After several years in Auckland, the family homesteaded a 50-acre block of land in the Bay of Islands. His father built a house in an area regarded by the Maori as sacred and tapu, and this sacrilege caused a potentially explosive situation. Young Fowler, however, had developed good friendships with Maori in Auckland which he replicated in their new home; one of his close friends was the Ngati Manu aristocrat Nepia Pomare.

To solve the impasse Pomare adopted the Fowler boy and performed a purification ceremony on him, which applied also to his house. The farm failed anyway, but the Maori friendships and connections Fowler had built up formed the basis of his long and successful career in New Zealand and Samoan radio broadcasting. He acted as mediator between the Maori people and the broadcasting authority, recorded Maori programs, and was the first head of the Maori programs section of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation. He also was director of the Gisborne museum from 1953 to 1955 and a member of the NZ executive committee of the Red Cross.

He married twice and had four children. Following his special request, he was buried at the feet of his best friend, Hetekia Te Kani te Ua.

References

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Also available at: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/dnzb/

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