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Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation is a bilingual collection of poetry, and a literary delicacy not to be missed.

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Reviews
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This splendid book came from an agreement between the publishers in early 2017 to produce a book of Ngāi Tahu biographies to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the tribe’s Te Tiriti settlement. The editors acknowledge it was a difficult task to select the 50 people whose stories would feature in the first volume, leading to some omissions that will no doubt be rectified by subsequent volumes.

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The book covers the events of the exile of Tāwhiao, the second Māori King, following the final defeat of the Land Wars at Ōrākau, when the King and his supporters were forced into armed isolation, and operated for 20 years as an independent state. The narrative maintains a central focus on the actions of Tāwhiao and the Kīngitanga, whilst weaving in the other related historical figures and events of the time.

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In the short introduction to this collection, the editors vow to “go beyond the edges of what is expected from Oceanic writing” – the boundaries of where (all over the Pacific), what (endlessly diverse), and how (gender-bending and experimental amongst other styles) we write.

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This book came from a “Treaty on the Ground” conference held in 2016 at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Museum. It is a sometimes awkward attempt to cover the wide-ranging offerings of some of the participants. The phrase “Treaty on the Ground” is from Pākehā historian Ruth Ross’ 1972 piece attacking the “woolly-mindedness” that had allowed the Treaty to become all things to all people. The conference covered developments from 1945 to the present – although David Williams also traces links to Te Tiriti back to the Magna Carta – with a broad variety of offerings.

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He kitenga kanohi, he hokinga whakaaro – To see a face is to stir a memory. This whakataukī embodies this book, published in association with the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki to accompany a major exhibition of Lindauer’s work, displayed from October 2016 to February 2017. This was the largest and most comprehensive showing of Lindauer’s paintings ever.

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Once there was a beautiful water nymph named Hiriwa (a reo Māori word for “silver”). Every night she would flit along the river and dance under the light of the moon. Hiriwa was watched by Tuna, who longed to glow as she did and thought that if he played with Hiriwa in the moonlight, he would eventually glow like her.

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My tamariki were amazed by this story about Tamanui and through this book increased their knowledge about the survival of one of our most endangered birds, the kōkako, since the arrival of predator animals in our forests. This story tells of how Tamanui became the last surviving member of his family – or so he thought. He sets off on a journey to find a new home when he hears new kōkako birdsong… however it was a trick and he was captured instead! In time, under the protection of the people of Ngāti Tama in Taranaki, Tamanui finds a new family and the kōkako of the Moki Forest can continue to regenerate once more.

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Another book about Māori carving is a welcome addition to the growing list of publications about Māori art and those written by Māori women. It is also of interest that this book focuses on a particular locality and practice of the East Coast. While the Iwirākau tradition of the Waiapū Valley represents a relatively short period in history, and a relatively small geographic area, its impact resounds loud and clear today.

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It is very fitting that this review appears in TE KARAKA, because of the connection between Te Whiti and his followers, and their enforced presence in our rohe. It’s some time since I’d read Dick Scott’s Ask That Mountain, so Danny Keenan’s book is a welcome refresher. It is a readable, inspiring, but ultimately sad tale about power and injustice.

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