Born in Apia, Western Samoa, Albert Wendt has published a huge range of fiction and poetry, as well as theoretical writing. He is internationally recognised as a leader of developments in New Zealand and Pacific literature. Albert Wendt was awarded the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in 2000. His publications often feature his own drawings, and in 2008 an exhibition of his paintings opened in Auckland. He has edited a number of important anthologies and continues to play a major role in fostering and promoting Pacific literature. In 2013 he was awarded the highest possible honour in New Zealand's honours system, becoming a member of the Order of New Zealand.
Place of residence: Auckland, New Zealand
In 1980, Albert Wendt was awarded first place for Leaves of the Banyan Tree at the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards.
He delivered the 2000 Book Council lecture, entitled 'Le Vaipe: the Dead Water', at the 2000 Festival. He was awarded Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Literature in the same year.
The Book of the Black Star (2002) combines words and images in short poems, drawing on Samoan language and myth, dreams and memories, as well as on the daily life of the poet.
Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English (Auckland University Press, 2003) edited by Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri & Robert Sullivan is the first anthology of contemporary indigenous Polynesian poetry in English edited by Polynesians. Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English won the Montana Award for Reference and Anthology at the 2004 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Mango's Kiss (2003) is a fictional world focused on Samoa and New Zealand and reaching out to the centres of the world. Pele's first moment of remembered consciousness is the morning kiss of the mango fruit on her cheek.
Albert Wendt and Pacific Literature: Circling the Void (2003) by Paul Sherrad. This is the first extended study of Albert Wendt's work and sets his achievement in the contexts of Pacific culture, NZ contemporary writing and post-colonial discourse. Sharrad presents a chronological treatment of all Wendt's major works revealing the imaginative power that drives them and the way in which they draw deeply on indigenous tradition while expressing the discontinuities, ambiguities and subversions of the postmodern consciousness.
Wendt has recently been awarded New Zealand's Senior Pacific Islands Artist's Award (2003), Japan's Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture (2004), and he received an honorary Doctor of Literature from Victoria University in May 2005.
Wendt had a poem included in Shards of Silver (Steele Roberts, 2006), a book investigating the interplay between photography and poetry.
Adventures of Vela was published by Huia in 2009. The novel is written entirely in verse, and is described by Wendt as his “life’s work”, as he began writing it in the 1970's.
Wendt was awarded a Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Hawai‘i in May 2009.
The Adventures of Vela (Huia, 2009) won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the Asia Pacific Region. “It is a great honour to be recognised in this way” said Professor Wendt at the awards ceremony in Sydney in February. “Vela has been a character I have thought about for a long time so this is a lifetime’s work”. Regional Chair for South East Asia and Pacific, Dr Anne Brewster, said “the high standard of books in the South East Asia and Pacific region this year ensured that the short-listing process was a challenge for the judges”.
Mauri Ola: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English – Whetu Moana II was edited by Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan (Auckland University Press, 2010). The anthology was a finalist in the Poetry category of the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards.
In 2012, Albert Wendt won the $60,000 Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement for Fiction. A new collection of poems, From Mānoa to a Ponsonby Garden was published by Auckland University Press the same year.
Wendt was the Honoured New Zealand Writer at the 2013 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival and received a standing ovation for his contribution to New Zealand writing. Albert Wendt was honoured as a member of The Order of New Zealand for services to New Zealand in The Queen's Birthday Honours List 2013.
In 2015, Wendt became a patron of the New Zealand Book Council. Peter Biggs, Chair of the Council’s Board says, “Albert is one of New Zealand’s most renowned writers and, as a pioneering Pasifika writer in New Zealand, he has been the inspiration for our country’s wonderful flowering of Pasifika literary talent. He has opened up the Pasifika experience to all New Zealanders. Albert’s new role is a deepening of the Book Council’s commitment to Pasifika writers and readers.”
In September 2015, Wendt released a short memoir, Out of the Vaipe, the Deadwater (Bridget Williams Books). In the book, Wendt returns to his boyhood in the Vaipe, a suburb of Apia, Samoa to explore elemental questions about place, memory and narrative. Is the Vaipe he has created in his stories, poetry and novels really the Vaipe that existed and exists in real life? Or is it real only in his books? Is there a difference between the two? And does it matter? His responses form a vivid narrative that returns full circle to the symbolic world of the Deadwater. Out of the Vaipe, the Deadwater was named as one of Auckland Libraries' 'Top 100 books of 2015'.
Wendt’s novel, Breaking Connections (Huia Publishers), was released in November 2015. Based in New Zealand and Hawaii, the story follows the lives of an urban tribe, a group of friends held together by shared lifetimes, love and fierce loyalty. The novel had been on Wendt’s mind for several years, “I started writing Breaking Connections when we shifted to Hawaii in mid–2004 and have been working on it on and off since then. It eventually became a novel about a new type of urban family, a tribe of friends, set in Auckland from the 60s and 70s through to today.”
Last updated October 2016.
- Albert Wendt’s bibliography in the Auckland University Library's New Zealand Literature File
- Wendt's biography on the Pacific Starmap website
- Interview in Spasifik magazine, July 2009
- Wendt's biography at the Finnish website, kirjasto
- Booknotes Unbound: Albert Wendt new patron for the New Zealand Book Council
- Booknotes Unbound Book of the Month: Breaking Connections