Story: Māori fiction – ngā tuhinga paki

Page 3. Confronting reality

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The Māori fiction that followed Witi Ihimaera and Patricia Grace assumed a darker tone as writers tackled the harsh realities of Māori life in the cities.

Ihimaera and Grace’s urban characters maintained links with their rural whānau and travelled back to their ancestral marae, but these connections were not available to the culturally alienated characters of their successors. The fiction of Apirana Taylor, Bruce Stewart and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, who rose in prominence in the 1980s, deals with themes of violence, poverty and hopelessness. Renée’s fiction and plays explore feminism, class and sexuality.

Keri Hulme

Keri Hulme (of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Māmoe) has written in a wide variety of genres, including poetry, short fiction and non-fiction. Her poetic gifts are manifest in the language of her only novel, the bone people (1983), which was published by the Spiral Collective after difficulties with mainstream publishers, who wanted to heavily edit the book. Hulme’s reclamation of Ngāi Tahu identity and female power are clearly evident in the creation of the novel’s protagonist, Kerewin Holmes, a bookish recluse who lives on the wild margins of the coastal south.

The book is a heady brew of violence, dysfunctional relationships and a search for belonging. Its triumph at the 1985 Booker Prize has remained a seminal moment for both Māori and New Zealand fiction.

Alan Duff

Alan Duff (Ngāti Rangitihi, Tūwharetoa) has also confronted the reality of violence and alcohol abuse in Māori communities. The grandson of founding Listener editor Oliver Duff, Alan Duff was a state ward and borstal inmate as a teenager, which equipped him with the raw material for his 1990 novel Once were warriors. Duff’s disturbing and visceral exposé of habitual violence and alcohol and drug dependency among urban Māori families sent shock waves through the community. The film Once were warriors (1994) was acclaimed in indigenous communities worldwide as a graphic account of colonisation’s destructive legacies.

Books in Homes

Alan Duff set up the Books in Homes scheme in 1992 to ensure that disadvantaged children had access to reading materials even if their families could not afford them. The programme was officially launched in 1995, and since then, 8 million books have been distributed.

Duff continued to follow the fortunes of the Warriors Heke family in What becomes of the broken hearted? (1996), which received the Montana Fiction Book of the Year Award in 1997, and Jake’s long shadow (2002).

Te ao mārama

Between 1992 and 1996, five volumes of Te ao mārama were published. Edited by Witi Ihimaera, and containing fiction and non-fiction in English and te reo Māori, Te ao marama remains the most wide-ranging collection of Māori writing.

How to cite this page:

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, 'Māori fiction – ngā tuhinga paki - Confronting reality', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/maori-fiction-nga-tuhinga-paki/page-3 (accessed 6 December 2019)

Story by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, published 22 Oct 2014