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Witi & Friends Gala Night: Nelson Arts Festival

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Witi Ihimaera’s Tangi, the first novel written by a Māori author to be published in New Zealand. Join Witi and six fellow Māori writers at this special gala event to celebrate Aotearoa storytelling: Emma Espiner (MC), Vaughan Rapatahana, Ruby Solly, Donna McLeod, Arihia Latham and Airana Ngarewa.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first Māori novel to be published in New Zealand, and to commemorate Witi’s contribution to Aotearoa literature, Penguin Books NZ will publish two new anthologies of Māori writing this year: Te Awa o Kupu and Ngā Kupu Wero.

These two passionate and vibrant anthologies, which have been edited by Witi, Vaughan Rapatahana and Kiri Piahana-Wong, feature more than 80 contemporary Māori writers. Together they reveal that the irrepressible river of words flowing from Māori writers today shows us who and what we are.

It all started 50 years ago when Witi’s debut novel, Tangi, was published. A landmark literary event, it went on to win the James Wattie Book of the Year Award. Witi was just 29 years old at the time.

Revisiting the text for this special anniversary edition, Witi has added richer details and developed the nascent themes that have continued to preoccupy him over a lifetime of writing. As part of the 50-year celebration, Penguin Books NZ has also re-released Witi’s first book, the short story collection, Pounamu, Pounamu (first published in 1972).

At this special event, Emma Espiner will facilitate a kōrero with Witi and Vaughan about Māori storytelling’s upsurge in New Zealand literature, interspersed with performances by some of the contributors to the two anthologies: Emma herself, Arihia Latham, Donna McLeod, Airana Ngarewa and Ruby Solly.

All pukapuka will be for sale through our Festival bookstore Paper Plus Nelson, both at their shop and at their stall at Pukapuka Talks sessions – your opportunity to meet authors and get your books signed! You can also purchase books from Paper Plus online.

Sun 22 Oct | 7pm | 90 min
Pay What You Can (PWYC)

Witi Ihimaera (Te Whānau-a-Kai, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Whakatōhea, Ngai Tūhoe)
Witi Ihimaera is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and accomplished writers. Witi’s first novel, Tangi, won the Wattie Book of the Year Award in 1974, a feat he repeated with The Matriarch in 1986. His celebrated novel Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies, now adapted as the film Mahana, won the Montana Book of the Year award in 1995. Witi’s other novels and short story collections include The Whale Rider (also adapted as an internationally successful film); Dream Swimmer (sequel to the award-winning The Matriarch); Pounamu, Pounamu and Nights In The Gardens of Spain. In 2015 he published the first volume of his autobiography, Māori Boy, and the second volume, Native Son, came out in 2019. The 50th anniversary edition of this award-winning debut novel, Tangi, has just been published by Penguin. He has also edited Ngā Kupu Wero, which brings together a bounty of essays, articles, commentary and creative non-fiction on the political, cultural and social issues that challenge us today.

Dr Emma Espiner (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou)
Dr Emma Espiner née Wehipeihana (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) is a writer, political commentator and surgical registrar at Middlemore Hospital.  She was the Voyager Opinion Writer of the Year 2020 and her podcast Getting Better- A Year in the Life of a Maori Medical Student won Voyager Best Narrative Podcast of the year in 2021. Emma’s writing has been published in media outlets, academic and literary journals. Her debut memoir is There’s a Cure for This.

Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa)
Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa) is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Māori and English and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin, Romanian, Spanish. He earned a Ph. D from the University of Auckland with a thesis about Colin Wilson and writes extensively about Wilson. Vaughan is also a poet, with nine collections published in Hong Kong SAR; Macau; Philippines; USA; England; France, India, Australia, and Aotearoa New Zealand. Atonement (UST Press, Manila) was nominated for a National Book Award in Philippines (2016); he won the inaugural Proverse Poetry Prize the same year; and was included in Best New Zealand Poems (2017). Rapatahana is one of the few World authors who consistently writes in and is published in te reo Māori (the Māori language). It is his mission to continue to do so and to push for a far wider recognition of the need to write and to be published in this tongue.

Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe)
Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) is a writer, musician and taonga pūoro practitioner living in Pōneke. Her first book, Tōku Pāpā, was published in 2021 and longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She has had poetry published in Aotearoa, Australia, America and Antarctica. In 2020 she released her debut album, Pōneke, and in 2021, Bird Like Men, as part of the group Tararua. She is currently completing a PhD in public health, focusing on the use of taonga pūoro in hauora Māori.

Donna McLeod (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Rarua)
Donna McLeod (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Rarua) is mana whenua in Te Tauihu and lives on papakainga in Motueka. She is a writer and performer of Te Oro Hā, a member of Te Ohu Whakaari, and curator of Toi Māori at Te Noninga Kumu (Motueka Public Library). Donna is published in Te Awa o Kupu (Penguin, 2023), Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety (VUP, 2018) and Eastbourne: An Anthology (Mākaro Press, 2013). She has also had poetry published on The Spinoff.

Arihia Latham (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha)
Arihia Latham (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha) is a writer, rongoā practitioner and cultural advisor based in Te Whanganui a Tara. Her work has been widely published and anthologised and she presents often at arts and writing festivals. Her poetry collection Birdspeak is out in July 2023.

Airana Ngarewa (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Ngāruahine)
Born and raised in Pātea, Airana Ngarewa (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Ngāruahine) is a writer and a teacher. He teaches at Spotswood College, New Plymouth, and is studying a Master of Teaching and Education Leadership with Ako Mātātupu: Teach first. His writing has appeared in The Spinoff, Newsroom, Headland, Mayhem Literary Journal, Turbine, Takehē Magazine, Huia Short Stories and elsewhere. The Bone Tree is his first novel, and will be published by Moa Press in September 2023.

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