Five of New Zealand’s leading Māori and Pasifika writers will be showcasing their work in the United Kingdom next month (November) alongside the high profile Oceania art exhibition in London.
Oceania opened to acclaim at the Royal Academy of Arts in September and features around 200 works of art from New Zealand, Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia in the United Kingdom’s first major exhibition of the diverse art of the region.
Māori writers Witi Ihimaera, Paula Morris and Tina Makereti will be joined by Pasifika poets Karlo Mila and David Eggleton for a programme of activity in London, including two public events.
In a panel discussion at the Royal Academy each of the writers will choose an artwork as a starting point to explore the exhibition’s themes and will also talk about the role of Indigenous writers and literature with Senior Curator at the Royal Academy, Adrian Locke.
“Part of Creative New Zealand’s role is to support our New Zealand artists to achieve success internationally. We saw the opportunity provided by Oceania and are delighted to have writers of this calibre participating in this initiative,” said Arts Council Chair Michael Moynahan.
“The profile of Oceania, and the resulting interest in this part of world, is an ideal platform to support and promote our talented literary artists.”
Award-winning writer and journalist Damian Barr will also host one of his renowned Literary Salons with the writers. Glasgow-born, Barr recently spent three months in New Zealand as part of the University of Otago's Scottish Writers Fellowship. He shared his observations on the country, the population and its cuisine in a series of light hearted social media posts which garnered hundreds of likes.
The writers will also participate in a Commonwealth Writers Conversation hosted by the Commonwealth Foundation. This invitation-only event at the historic Marlborough House in Pall Mall will focus on the contemporary perspective of South Pacific writers.
In addition the panels and events the writers will also take part in meetings and networking opportunities within the arts and publishing sectors.
Creative New Zealand will invest $33,000 in travel and accommodation for the writers as well as public relations support.
New Zealand (through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade), Papua New Guinea and the Kingdom of Tonga are partnering with the Royal Academy to present the Oceania exhibition in London. Themes of the exhibition including voyaging, place-making and encounters relate to the past, present, and future of the Pacific.
David Eggleton is a poet, writer, reviewer and editor. An award winning critic, his non-fiction books include Into the Light: A History of New Zealand Photography, published in 2006, and Towards Aotearoa: A Short History of Twentieth Century New Zealand Art, published in 2008. His first collection of poems, South Pacific Sunrise, was co-winner of the PEN New Zealand Best First Book of Poems Award in 1987. In 2015 he received the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry. His collection of poems, The Conch Trumpet, won the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Award for Poetry. Also in 2016, he received the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. A new collection, Edgeland and other poems, was published by Otago University Press in July 2018. Formerly Editor of Landfall, Aotearoa New Zealand͛’s leading literary journal, David Eggleton is currently Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer in Residence at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in Honolulu.
Witi Ihimaera was the first Māori to publish a novel, Tangi, in 1973. Since then he has published many notable novels including The Matriarch 1984, Bulibasha 1995 and Sleeps Standing 2017. Four of his books have been made into feature films, including Whale Rider 2002. The first volume of his memoir, Māori Boy, won the non-fiction category of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2016; the next volume, Native Son, will be published next year. He is also an anthologist of Māori and Pacific culture, playwright and librettist. Ihimaera was recently awarded the Prime Minister͛s Award for fiction and the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government for his work in supporting Māori, Pacific and Indigenous World literatures. He was Writer of Honour at the Auckland Writers Festival, 2018. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
Tina Makereti writes novels, essays and short stories. Her latest novel, The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, tells the tale of a young Māori man who is exhibited at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, in 1846. In 2016, her short story, Black Milk, won the Pacific Regional Commonwealth Short Story Prize and in 2017, she co-edited an anthology of Māori & Pasifika fiction, Black Marks on the White Page, with Witi Ihimaera. Makereti’s first novel, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings, was longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and won the 2014 Ngā Kupu Ora Aotearoa Māori Book Award for Fiction, also won by her short story collection, Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa. Makereti has presented her work all over New Zealand and in Germany, Taiwan, Jamaica, Canada and the UK. She teaches creative writing at Massey University.
Karlo Mila is a Pasifika poet of Tongan, Samoan and Palangi heritage. Her first book, Dream Fish Floating (2006), won a New Zealand Society of Author’s Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry. She collaborated with German artist Delicia Sampero on her second collection, the image-text A Well Written Body (2008). She is a recipient of a Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer͛s Residency and represented Tonga at the 2012 Cultural Olympiad event Poetry Parnassus Festival in London. This year, Mila performed poetry at the Commonwealth Peoples' Forum in London (CHOGM). She completed a BA from Massey University and worked for ten years in labour organising and health research before completing her PhD in sociology. Mila’s poetry and scholarship focus on the personal and political realities of Pasifika identity. She currently lives in Auckland and will have another collection poetry published by Huia in 2019.
Paula Morris (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Whatua) is the author of the story collection Forbidden Cities (2008); the long-form essay On Coming Home (2015); and eight novels, including Rangatira (2011), winner of best work of fiction at both the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards and Ngā Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards. Her most recent book is False River (2017), a collection of stories and essays around the subject of secret histories. She teaches creative writing at the University of Auckland, sits on the Māori Literature Trust and New Zealand Book Awards Trust, and is the founder of the Academy of New Zealand Literature.