Kohine Ponika was born in Ruatoki North, the daughter of Rev. Wharetini and Hinerotu Numia Rangi. She was educated at Ruatoki Native School and Hukarere Māori Girls’ College. She married Koti Hohia Ponika and they lived in Ruatoki where they raised a large family including seven adopted children. When Koti transferred from the Te Mahoe Dam Project to the Tongariro Power Project in 1967, the family moved to Turangi; Kohine and Koti lived in Turangi for the rest of their lives.
Influenced by her parents who were both gifted performers and led haka parties before visiting royalty, Kohine maintained that singing was always her “first love”. Her childhood at the Anglican Mission House in Ruatoki also had a lasting impact on her. Kohine was later to write: “At this stage of my life singing hymns night and morning, school songs, school nursery rhymes with my own words part thrown in here and there, was the order of my days. Again I say this important stage of my upbringing played a major part in what I was going to do in later years. Singing was my every day thing.”
Kohine began writing action songs when she was nineteen and was encouraged to continue by Apirana Ngata. Kohine recalls: “In 1940 at Ruatoki – Rewarewa marae, Tuhoe tribe welcomed for the first time Paraire Paikea and escorted specially by our loved kaumatua Apirana. He was wrapped with the Māori words of our song of welcome (Tane – you are my sunshine) and asked who was the composer. It was one of my earliest quick-thought of things, and it was at the time that he said to me, in fact ordered me to write Māori words for the beautiful song [Schubert’s Serenade]. Didn’t know the tune from a bar of soap, I knew it was one of those operatic airs, and probably a favourite of his.” She completed this request; Mark Metekingi has recorded it on tape.
Kohine’s compositions have been used by Māori Clubs throughout the country and have won many awards. In 1966 her action song “Toia Mai Ra” won a national award sponsored by the NZBC. In 1969 she was an award winner in the NZBC Cook Bi-Centenary Celebration Competition for original Māori Songs and Lyrics. In the mid 1980s her poi “Poi iti Poi e” won first place at the national Kapa Haka Festival in Hastings performed by Kohine’s group Tongariro. Two other action songs, “Aku Mahi” and “KaraNgātia Ra Pohiritia Ra”, were written specifically for Ngāti Poneke and became widely used throughout New Zealand.
Kohine wrote waiata in te reo Māori and English. She also wrote poetry, autobiographical accounts, a Māori language reader Te Porete, and a regular diary. Her many unpublished writings remain in the possession of her whanau.
In 1969 Kohine founded the Hei Tiki Māori Youth Club in Turangi and in the 1980s she travelled to the United States as a tutor of the culture groups accompanying the Te Māori exhibition. Kohine was active in her home marae in Ruatoki, Tauarau Marae, and returned from time to time to prepare the culture group for Tuhoe festivals and other events. She was knowledgeable of all things Tuhoe and recorded whakapapa and taught taiaha. She was an active church member of the Church of the Cross in Turangi and was a member of APRA (the Australasian Performing Rights Association). On various occasions she was called on to judge festival competitions including the 1973 New Zealand Polynesian Festival competitions.
- Phone conversation, email and correspondence from Numia Ponika Rangi, 10 July 1998 and 15 and 23 Sept. 2004.
- Family papers.
- Te Kaunihera Māori 1.3 (1967): 29.
- "Kohine Whakarua Ponika." Into the World of Light: An Anthology of Māori Writing. Ed. Witi Ihimaera and D. S. Long. Auckland, N.Z.: Heinemann, 1982. 45
- He Waiata Tangi Mo Tuterangiwhaitiri (Te Aitanga-A-Hauiti) Na Rangiua.
- "Waiata Ko-E, Te Kihikihi." N.d. No details.
- "E Rere E Poi E." N.d. No details.
- "Ka Noho Au. Ka Whakaaro Iho." N.d. No details.
- "A Mother’s Lilt." N.d. No details.
- In this song the speaker urges the younger generation to grow.
- "E Koekoe Te Kōkō." N.d. No details.
- "Ka Kimi Kau Ake." N.d. No details.
- "He Aha Taku Māoritanga." N.d. No details.
- "Toia Mai Ra." [1966?] No details.
- The winning action song in the 1966 NZBC Māori Song competition in the section: ‘Best Original Tune for Māori Action Song, and it was made available for recording on 30 July 1968.
- "A Song for the Wanderer." [1967?] No details.
- This was Kohine’s first song after moving from Ruatoki to Turangi in 1967. It is in English.
- "Ka Haku Au/Ka Haku Au." Into the World of Light: An Anthology of Māori Writing. Ed. Witi Ihimaera and D. S. Long. Auckland, N.Z.: Heinemann, 1982. 44-45. Written in Māori and English.
- Kohine mourns the passing of loved ones and as she looks to the future is strengthened by the enduring nature of her Māori heritage.
- "Taukuri Ra Nga Mahara." 1984. No details.
- This waiata with lyrics by Kohine and melody from Schubert’s Serenade, was written on 11th March 1984.
- "He Waiata Murimuri Aroha/A Song Of Yearning." Trans. Kōhine Whakarua Pōnika. The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse. Ed. Ian Wedde and Harvey McQueen. Introd. and Notes by Ian Wedde and Margaret Orbell, consultant to the editors. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin, 1985. Rpt. 1986, 1987. 258-259.
- The speaker, separated from the place of her birth and home, likens herself to seaweed adrift at sea and is transfixed between the world of the living and the dead.
- "Karanga! Karanga!/Call together." Trans. Sam Karetu and the Advisory Committee for the Teaching of the Māori Language. ibid. 259-260. Rpt. in Māori only in Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 1: Te Whakahuatanga O Te Ao: Reflections of Reality. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1992. 80.
- A call to all Māori iwi to hold firmly to the cultural heritage of the Māori.
- "Aku Mahi." Unpublished prose.
- In this short prose piece Kohine writes about her birth and her early love of singing.
- "Rolling Over, On The Ground." No details.
- "Melisse." No details.
- "Thoughts On The Wing." No details.
- Te Porete. He Mea Kōrero Anō Nā Kohine Ponika. [Retold by Kohine Ponika]. Ko Ngā Whakaāhua Nā Wendy Hodder [Illus. Wendy Hodder]. Whanganui-a-Tara [Wellington], N.Z.: Te Rōpu Mahipukapukakura, Te Tari Mātauranga, 1988.
- Māori language story in the Nga Tamariki Iti o Aotearoa series.
- The Porete. English version by Kararaina Rangihau and Bea Hamer. Illus. Wendy Hodder. Wellington, N.Z.: School Publications Branch, Dept. of Education, 1988.
- Te Porete. Te Mana Māori Programmes. Turangi, N.Z., 1978.
- Kohine Ponika tells a story from her childhood in te reo Māori. Recorded 2 August 1978 in Turangi. It includes waiata by Kohine entitled: "Te Tangi a te Porete" and "So the Legend Tells."
- The Porete. Trans. Kararaina Rangihau and Bea Kramer. [Wellington, N.Z.]: Department of Education, Audio Production Unit, .
- "Māori Song Contest." Te Kaunihera Māori 1.3 (1967): 29-31.