National | Creative New Zealand

Witi Ihimaera strives to maintain kaupapa Māori

The first Māori writer to publish both a book of short stories and a novel will have another award added to his long list of accolades.

Witi Ihimaera, who is about to receive a Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement, says, "I was the first Māori novelist, not a good novelist, but I was the best they could get at the time, so since then, I have tried my very very best to maintain that kaupapa, which is to ensure that the Māori story is always there alongside the Pākehā story."

Since the 1960s, Ihimaera has received numerous awards.

Now he is one of three Prime Minister Award recipients who will each be awarded $60,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature.

"Well some people might say it's not the quantity that matters, it's the quality."

Ihimaera has 16 novels, seven collections of short stories, four films and three plays to his name.

But the internationally renowned writer's work hasn't ended there.

He has also released a new bi-lingual book 'Sleeps Standing' with Hemi Kelly, which he hopes will help Māori stories be told through literature.

"I think this might be a first, but if it isn't, then kei te pai, but if it is, then maybe that will be a way in which a model we can take into the future in terms of our literature."

The Prime Minister's awards will be presented at a ceremony in Wellington, August 9.