Apr 12, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

First Fiction Winner at Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards

4 min read

It is a milestone year for Nga Kupu Ora 2011, the third Maori Book Awards. For the first time the awards will celebrate a winner for fiction, and a book written completely in te reo has taken out the Te Reo Maori category.

Tina Makereti has won the first-ever Fiction award for Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa, a book of short stories that puts traditional Maori myths and legends into a contemporary context. Makereti is thrilled to be recognised for her first book.

Im really excited because, in New Zealand, there are very limited ways for fiction to get recognised, she says. And you cant underestimate the value an award can bring in the world of publishing.

Awards judge and Massey University senior lecturer Spencer Lilley says it was particularly satisfying to have a Fiction category because, in previous years, there had been a shortage of Maori fiction published for sophisticated readers.

Previously prolific authors like Patricia Grace have not published adult fiction in recent years, says Lilley. So it was especially pleasing to not only have a Fiction category for the first time, but to also find there were young, first-time writers producing work of a high quality.

The calibre of this years te reo Maori finalists also impressed the judges. 2011 is the first year that the winning book has been written completely in te reo, reflecting the growing diversity of books published in the Maori language. The Te Reo Maori category also produced the competitions first e-book finalist.

Chris Winitana won the Te Reo Maori award for Toku reo, Toku Ohooho (My Language, My Inspiration), a book about the revitalisation of the Maori language that has also been published in English.

Many Nga Kupu Ora award winners are established Maori literary academics, says Winitana. I dont have any sort of degree so Im tickled pink to be in such esteemed company. Its a great honour and I hope it opens up the possibility in the minds of other writers who have a passion for their particular subject.

Three further books were also recognised by the judging panel. The head of Massey Universitys School of Maori Studies, Robert Jahnke, won the Arts category with Tirohanga o Mua: Looking Back; the Biography award was won by Joseph Pere for Wiremu Pere; and Te Taiao: Maori and the Natural World, published by Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, won the Non-Fiction award.

The judges congratulated the 2011 winners on the quality of their work, and for their contribution to Maori knowledge. In addition to excellent content and production, each of the winning books advanced our knowledge and understanding in new and different ways, they said in their judges statement.

This years ceremony will also include a special award for Mana Magazine, which published its 100th issue in May 2011. The award is to acknowledge Manas role in encouraging Maori literature, and to celebrate a milestone in Maori publishing.

Mana editor Derek Fox says he was very surprised, but proud, that Massey had decided to honour his magazine. He also sees parallels between the objectives of the Nga Kupu Ora Awards and his own publication.

I’ve long felt that Maori need to celebrate our efforts and successes, he explains, and, to a large degree, Mana does that by telling Maori success stories that may not appear elsewhere.

The Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards were established in 2009 by Massey University to mark Maori Language Week and to celebrate and encourage excellence in Maori publishing. At that time, it was felt that Maori books were being overlooked by mainstream competitions.

Internationally-recognised author Patricia Grace, who won the Biography category for her first work of non-fiction at last years Nga Kupu Ora Awards, says: This wonderful initiative by Massey University in creating book awards for Maori writers gives an opportunity for recognition not always available in general awards.

The awards are named after the library collection of Maori resources established by Massey University in 2005. Nga Kupu Ora translates as the living words.

The awards for this years winners will be presented on November 29, 2011 at a ceremony at Te Putahi-a-toi, Massey Universitys School of Maori Studies in Palmerston North.

If you would like more information about the 2011 Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards, including images of book covers, or hi-res images and footage from last years event, or if you are interested in attending the 2011 event, contact:

Sidah Russell
Phone: (09) 441 2234
Mobile: 021 914 962
Email: [email protected]

Interviews with winning authors and Massey University spokespeople can be arranged. Images and video footage from the awards ceremony can be supplied post-event. Additional background information on each of the winning authors and books has been supplied in a separate appendix.

5 thoughts on “First Fiction Winner at Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards

  1. Maori Language / Te Reo Maori category
    Toku reo, Toku Ohooho (My Language, My Inspiration)
    By Chris Winitana
    Publisher: Huia Publishers

    The judging panel called Chris Winitanas book a timely social history about Maori language revitalisation in the last forty years. For the book, Winitana interviewed dozens of Maori language exponents who were instrumental in revitalisation initiatives, including Huirangi Waikerepuru, Timoti Karetu and the late Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira.

    Originally commissioned by the Maori Language Commission as a bilingual book, Winitana soon realised he had too much good material for a single, bilingual volume, so he wrote separate English and Maori editions.

    Around 80% of the interviews were conducted in te reo Maori, so a significant proportion of the book began in the M?ori language, and was then translated into English. Winitana sees the two books as very distinct from each other; he believes each has its own ethos and will therefore bring readers different insights.

    Our ancestors left us a world view, he explains. Culture is their way in action. Language is their way in words. Each language fits within its own world view, so these two books are not just mirror images of each other.

    As a former journalist, Winitana began his writing career in English but, when he decided to run his own kohanga reo for his children, the lack of Maori language resources meant he began writing more and more in Maori. Today, he makes a living as a freelance writer of books, radio and television scripts, and stage shows, mainly in te reo.

    According to the judges, Toku Reo is written in a style that will appeal to the student of rich Maori figurative expressions and uncommon lexicon, which has Winitana seriously chuffed. While te reo is the first language of his children, Winitana only learned the Maori language himself in his late teens.

    He says hes tickled pink to be in such esteemed company and hopes the book will find its way onto the reading lists for kura kaupapa and wananga across the country.

  2. Non-Fiction / Te Korero Pono category
    Te Taiao: Maori and the Natural World
    By Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
    Publisher: David Bateman Ltd

    Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand is a Ministry of Culture & Heritage project that aims to compile a comprehensive guide to New Zealands peoples, natural environment, history, culture, economy, institutions and society.

    The project consists of a series of themes, which are published online – the first section was published in 2005, and the project is due for completion in 2013. Te Ara also produces some print publications using text and images drawn from its website. Te Taiao: Maori and the Natural World is the most recent of these.

    Our motivation for Te Taiao was to make knowledge about Maori and the natural world available in as attractive and interesting a way as possible, says Te Ara senior editor Jock Phillips. We hoped that the book would be of value to both Maori themselves, especially in kura kapuapa, but also to the general public who wanted to know more about the Maori world.

    The judges awarded Te Taiao not only for contributing to our knowledge of how Maori interact with the environment, but also for the high quality of its writing, editing, illustrations and photography. The illustrations and artforms supporting each chapter create a visual symphony that allows the reader to indulge in each page, each picture, and each word, they said.

    For the editing team, the award represents recognition of a collective enterprise. I hope the award also encourages more people to use the book, says Jock Phillips, because it is a unique collection of stories and information about Maori and the natural world.

  3. Fiction / Te Pakimaero category
    Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa
    By Tina Makereti
    Publisher: Huia Publishers

    Tina Makereti describes this, her first book, as a short story collection that brings M?ori myths into a contemporary setting, and also looks at the mythologies being created by contemporary society.

    The judges were very impressed. As a first piece of published fiction, and as the inaugural winner of the Nga Kupu Ora award for fiction, Tina Makereti has set the bar very high for herself and other potential winners of this award in the future, they said.

    One of the stories in the book, Skin and Bones, won the Huia Publishers Best Short Story Award in 2009 and Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa has also been chosen as one of the 100 New Zealand titles to be spotlighted at the Frankfurt Book Fair, following New Zealands selection as the guest of honour for the event.

    The book has also been studied by a class of Harvard students undertaking a course in folklore. I even skyped with the group and that was a really fascinating experience, says Makereti. I think M?ori readers see the old stories that underpin the book but, for non-M?ori, its new and magical. They understand there is something mythological going on, but they approach it with fresh eyes and without pre-judgement.

    Makereti says she strives to create stories with universal themes, and wants her work to resonate across other cultures. She has always had an interest in mythology and says she has learned much from the old stories.

    I went quite deeply into myself in writing this book, and that excavation brings the important things to the surface, she says. But when others read the book and it strikes a chord, even if they get something quite different out of it thats just wonderful.

    Makereti lives on the Kapiti Coast and teaches life writing at Massey Universitys Wellington Campus. She completed a Bachelor of Arts and Postgraduate Diploma in M?ori Development at Massey and is currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing at Victoria University – along with her first novel.

  4. Biography / Te Haurongo category
    Wiremu Pere The Life and Times of a M?ori Leader 1837-1915
    By Joseph Pere
    Publisher: Libro International

    The judging panel described this book as an outstanding biography that was long overdue because Wiremu Peres contribution to politics is often overlooked due to the high profile of other Maori politicians of the time, including Apirana Ngata.

    Written by his great-grandson Joseph Pere, with the support of the Wi Pere Trust, the book describes Wi Peres eventful life, including his time as a Maori leader in the House of Representatives and the Legislative Council in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    The book details his role as a staunch advocate for Maori land rights at a time when Maori land alienation was being accelerated by the Land Court. Other parts of the book trace his whakapapa, and profile the Wi Pere Trust, one of his legacies that continues to grow and benefit his descendents today.

    Alan Haronga, another Wi Pere descendent and current chairman of the Wi Pere Trust, says the idea of a book celebrating Wi Peres life had been around for decades. But Joseph Pere took over the work of earlier family members when he decided to write his Masters thesis on his tipuna. Pere approached the Trust three years ago with a proposal to turn his thesis into a book, and they were very supportive of the project.

    In some respects the book was written for the whanau, says Haronga, but it would be of interest to historians and M?ori in general because Wi Pere lived through one of the biggest periods of transformation in New Zealands history.

    The Trust is now working with the books publishers to make Wiremu Pere available as an e-book.

  5. Arts / Te Mahi Toi category
    Tirohanga o Mua: Looking Back
    By Robert Jahnke
    Publisher: Te Manawa Gallery & Te Putahi-a-Toi (Massey Universitys School of Maori Studies in Palmerston North)

    Tirohanga o Mua began life as a catalogue for a retrospective exhibition by Robert Jahnke at Te Manawa Art Gallery in Palmerston North in 2010. But as the judging panel noted, It is too substantial to just call it another exhibition catalogue.

    Along with a comprehensive catalogue of work covering some 20 years and an essay by Jahnke himself, the book also contains essays by Nicholas Thomas (director of Cambridge Universitys Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) and Anna-Marie White (curator at Nelsons Suter Gallery and a former student of Professor Jahnkes). The catalogue also includes a conversation between artist Shane Cotton and Jahnke entitled Cotton and Jahnke Unplugged.

    I think the conversation between Shane Cotton and myself was a new approach to recording some aspects of art practice, says Jahnke. The conversation was very much directed by Shane and he wanted to cover my early training and my transition from an industrial and graphic designer into a sculptor.

    While in many ways autobiographical, the judges felt Tirohanga o Mua was also highly valuable as a text about the scholarship of art. Professor Jahnke says he created the book not just as an exhibition catalogue, but also to give direction to young M?ori artists.

    Discussions are currently being held with Huia Publishers to produce a follow-up edition of Tirohanga o Mua (in more of a book format although Im not sure what that will mean, laughs Jahnke), which will no doubt lead to a larger print run and wider distribution.

    Professor Jahnke is the head of Massey University’s School of M?ori Studies, and has been the coordinator of the M?ori visual arts programme at the Manawatu campus since 1991.

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