National | Books

Irish Embassy commissions play about colonisation in te reo

Translations, a play by Irish playwright Brian Friel, has been translated into te reo by author, translator and te reo exponent Hēmi Kelly. The translation was commissioned by the Irish Embassy as a gift to Aotearoa New Zealand and is being launched on August 24 at the Auckland Writers Festival.

"The Ireland embassy is hoping that it strengthens the bonds between Irish living here and Māori because of the similarities that are shared between our cultures, and our shared pursuits in trying to protect our own languages, Irish and Māori," Kelly says.

The original play is about the difficulties of communication between cultures, languages, and generations in a small Irish town. Translations portrays the arrival of the English and the changing of Ireland's original place names.

Kelly admits, however, that some of the work was difficult to translate into Māori because of how differently English is spoken in Ireland.

"There are a lot of phrases and idioms that I didn't know, so we had to work alongside others, and I must acknowledge Aoife Finn who speaks Māori and is also Irish."

As an author and translator, Kelly believes New Zealand need to invest more in the creation of its own stories rather than those translated from other languages. But for Friel's translation, the shared goal between the embassy and Kelly is that in the future the play will also be performed in Māori.

"We really need to strengthen both sides and continue to translate into Māori the stories that are already there and possibly more of our own stories.m both aspects need to be strong."

The printed version will be released on Wednesday, August 24.