Maori writers feature heavily in festival

Maori author Witi Ihimaera will discuss his book Navigating the Stars: Maori Creation Myths...
Maori author Witi Ihimaera will discuss his book Navigating the Stars: Maori Creation Myths during the Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Dunedin continues its spectacular run of cultural activity with the four-day Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival, which opens today.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, festival director Hannah Molloy has created a programme focused squarely on homegrown writers, from Dunedin and across New Zealand.

Within that, the festival features a collection of events curated to recognise and celebrate some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s outstanding Maori writers, including Witi Ihimaera, Jacinta Ruru, Becky Manawatu, and the Te Kai a te Rangatira collective.

They will discuss the mahi writers are doing to unpack colonial structures, to support youth to shape their future, while learning about the past.

In several sessions, the Te Kai a te Rangatira collective will work with young people to share the wisdom garnered from more than 100 interviews with Maori renowned for their service and contribution to Maori.

The breadth and talent of Maori academics working in tertiary institutions will also be highlighted during the festival’s "What Foes the Future Hold?" gala showcase tonight, from 7.30pm, at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

Author Becky Manawatu (Ngai Tahu) will discuss the impact of her powerful first novel, Aue, in "Rocketing to Fame", on Saturday, at 6pm.

Manawatu recently moved to Dunedin to take up the Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago and will be in conversation with Radio New Zealand’s Lynn Freeman about how her meteoric rise to literary fame has affected her approach to writing and to life.

New Zealand literary taonga Witi Ihimaera, whose career spans almost 50 years, will discuss the vast sweep of his latest book Navigating the Stars — Maori Creation Myths.

The book traces the history of Maori people through their creation myths, bringing them to the twenty-first century.

Ihimaera will also join a session on Saturday with local writer Michelle Elvy discussing their web portal, Love in the Time of Covid, exploring the idea of creativity under lockdown.

Decolonisation will be the focus of a Sunday afternoon session with Becky Kiddle (Ngati Porou, Nga Puhi) and Amanda Thomas (pakeha), two of the contributing authors of Imagining Decolonisation.

Kiddle and Thomas wrote chapters about why decolonisation is good for everyone, not only Maori, and about how people other than tangata whenua can engage in the process.

Information on festival sessions can be found at the festival website at

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