Media & Press

Witi Ihimaera confirmed as guest speaker at Literary Festival

The Whanganui Literary Festival Trust is delighted to announce that Witi Ihimaera will be a guest speaker at this year’s festival (29 September- 01 October) Witi took part in the 2013 Festival, and it is fitting that he should be here for the 10th biennial event. “We were sitting

on a knife edge,” explains Trust Chairperson, Joan Rosier-Jones. “Witi wanted to come, but he had obligations in USA and wasn’t sure of the exact dates. You can imagine our delight when he said he could confirm with us.”

This is also a special time for Witi Ihimaera. It is the 50th Anniversary of his becoming the first Māori novelist with the publication of award-winning, Tangi (1973). At the time he worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a career diplomat which he continued until 1989 with postings in Canberra, New York, Washington and two years as a New Zealand consul.

In 1990 he became a professor in the English Department of Auckland University where he remained until his retirement. All the while, he was writing. In 1975 he was awarded the Burns Fellowship at Otago University. Since then he has written ten more novels all of them award-winning. His 2003 novel, Whale Rider, was made into a highly successful movie directed by Niki Caro. The filmed starred Keisha Castle-Hughes who became the youngest nominee for an Academy Award.

Witi Ihimaera’s collections of short stories have also garnered kudos, while his renown extends beyond the literary world. He earned a laureate award from the New Zealand Arts Foundation 2009 and the Toi Māori Maui Tiketike Award 2011. In 2004, he became a Distinguished Companion of the Order of New Zealand (the equivalent of a knighthood). He is extensively recognised internationally. Among those honours, 2009 saw him take the inaugural Star of Oceania Award, University of Hawaii, and the Premio Ostana International Award, presented to him in Italy in 2010.

In his talk at the Wanganui Literary Festival Witi Ihimaera will discuss his life as the first Māori novelist, his national career as a revered New Zealand novelist and his international career as one of the world’s leading indigenous writers.

(Source – Whanganui River City Press)

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