Novelist, essayist and creative writing teacher Tina Makereti recommends five of her favourite books by Maori and Pasifika authors
Where We Once Belonged - Sia Figiel
From the first line this book gripped me with it's bold, unflinching, deeply Samoan, expansively contemporary voice. It won the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Pacific in 1986, but it's well worth seeking out in libraries if you can't find a copy in print. A novel that easily encompasses many distinct stories, and changes the way one sees and understands the Pacific world.
Baby No Eyes - Patricia Grace
Still my favourite Patricia Grace book, and one that doesn't get cited as often as it should, Baby No Eyes continues some of the themes of Pōtiki, but brings its characters into the city. There they grapple with a colonial past that still reaches into their lives in tragic and visceral ways. However, Baby No Eyes offers a model for healing: how we might build contemporary whānau, excavate family stories, use direct action, and acknowledge the maimed and dead. It's extraordinary.
Fale Aitu / Spirit House - Tusiata Avia
Or anything by Tusiata really. At this point the idea of writing a list of five starts to get silly because not only does all of Tusiata's work require widespread and fervent reading, but so does the work of her poetry sisters - Hinemoana Baker, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Karlo Mila... and this is just the beginning of the list. Pacific women, and here I mean the Pacific to include Aotearoa, have something to say and the most extraordinary ways of saying it. But I'm naming Fale Aitu / Spirit House today because of the moving 'I cannot write a poem about Gaza' and 'Mafui’e: 22 February 2011', which had my whole class of first year poetry students pondering the connotations of wildebeests on the streets of Christchurch and totally getting it.
Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English - eds. Robert Sullivan & Reina Whaitiri
Comprehensive and diverse, this anthology contains a touch of everything contemporary Māori poetry. There's history there too, but the book does not dictate how you read the poetry - it doesn't force a chronology or hierarchy on the content. Go to this to understand the breadth of Māori poetry, and something about the way each of us encounter our worlds.
Black Marks on the White Page - eds. Witi Ihimaera & Tina Makereti
Because it's an anthology, I feel like I can get away with plugging this! It will be launched early July, in hard cover, featuring visual and performance artists as well as over 20 writers. As the blurb says: 'Here are the glorious, painful, sharp and funny 21st century stories of Maori and Pasifika writers from all over the world. Vibrant, provocative and aesthetically exciting, these stories expand our sense of what is possible in Indigenous Oceanic writing.' It's true.
The University of Auckland free public lecture: Poutokomanawa – the Heartpost
Maori and Pasifika writers cross borders with a vibrant aesthetic that exists nowhere else on the planet. Yet they are under-represented in literature—research suggests that Maori and Pasifika poetry and fiction accounts for only 3% of all locally published literature. Other ethnic groups fare worse. In this lecture novelist, essayist and creative writing teacher Tina Makereti assesses the state of affairs and presents her vision of a vibrant Maori/Pasifika/ Indigenous/NZ literature: What kind of house does our literature inhabit? Where are radical renovations needed?
Free event - no ticket required
WED, 17 MAY 2017
5:00pm – 5:45pm
Heartland Festival Room, Aotea Square
Part of the Auckland Writers Festival