Witi Ihimaera in October 2012
|Born||Witi Tame Ihimaera-Smiler
7 February 1944
near Gisborne, New Zealand
Ihimaera was born near Gisborne, a town in the east of New Zealand's North Island and is of Māori descent (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki) and Anglo-Saxon descent through his father, Tom. He attended Church College of New Zealand in Temple View, Hamilton, New Zealand.
He is commonly believed to have been the first Māori writer to publish both a novel and a book of short stories.
He began to work as a diplomat at the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1973, and served at various diplomatic posts in Canberra, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Ihimaera remained at the Ministry until 1989, although his time there was broken by several fellowships at the University of Otago in 1975 and Victoria University of Wellington in 1982 (where he graduated with a BA). In 1990, he took up a position at the University of Auckland, where he became Professor, and Distinguished Creative Fellow in Māori Literature. He retired from this position in 2010.
Most of Ihimaera's work consists of short stories or novels. He has written a considerable number of stories, with the most notable being works such as Yellow Brick Road, Tangi, Pounamu, Pounamu, and The Whale Rider (the last of which became a film of the same name). His stories generally portray Māori culture in modern New Zealand. His work often focuses on problems within contemporary Māori society.
In 1995, Ihimaera published Nights in the Gardens of Spain, a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out. He had come out to himself in 1984 and began the work, but out of sensitivity to his daughters, did not finish or publish it then. Nights In The Gardens Of Spain was filmed in 2010 (Director; Katie Wolfe – run time 76-mins featuring Calvin Tuteao in the central role of 'Kawa') with changes to the book, making the central character Māori rather than Pākehā (European) to more closely reflect Ihimaera's life. Making the main character in the book Pakeha was Ihimaera's way of keeping his personal experiences somewhat concealed. In an article in The Sunday Star Times to coincide with the screening of the film on Television New Zealand (Sunday 23 January 2011 - TV 1, 8.30pm) Ihimaera was quoted as saying the change "was quite a shock to me because I had always tried to hide, to say this is a book that could be about 'everyman', this is not a specific story. So it (the film) is actually nearer to the truth than I would like to admit."
In 2009 book reviewer Jolisa Gracewood detected short passages from other writers, especially from historical sources, used without acknowledgement in Ihimaera's historical novel The Trowenna Sea, a work on the early history of Tasmania. Confronted by The Listener magazine with this evidence, Ihimaera apologized for not acknowledging the passages, claiming this was inadvertent and negligent and pointing to many pages of other sources that he had acknowledged. The University of Auckland investigated the incident and ruled that Ihimaera's actions did not constitute misconduct in research, as the actions did not appear to be deliberate and Ihimaera had apologised. Emeritus Professor of History Keith Sorrenson, however, said Ihimaera had admitted plagiarizing material from his works in his earlier book, The Matriarch (1986), and said the Trowenna Sea incident showed he had "learnt nothing". Ihimaera removed the book from public sale, purchasing the remaining stock himself. A revised edition, with fuller acknowledgements, originally planned for 2010, has since been cancelled.
Awards and honours
In 2004, he was made a Distinguished Companion in the New Zealand Order of Merit in the honours system) in 2004 for services to literature. In 2009, Prime Minister John Key restored the honours to their pre-April 2000 state. Principal Companions and Distinguished Companions were given the option to convert their awards into knighthoods or damehoods, with the appellation of either "Sir" or "Dame". Witi was one of a small minority of such members (fewer than 10 out of 85) to decline the knighthood and appellation.
- Tangi (1973)
- Whanau (1974)
- The Matriarch (1986)
- The Whale Rider (1987)
- Bulibasha: King of the Gypsies (1994)
- Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1995)
- The Dream Swimmer (1997)
- Woman Far Walking (2000)
- The Uncle's Story (2000)
- Sky Dancer (2004)
- Whanau II (2004)
- The Rope of Man (2005) - features 'Tangi', and its sequel 'The Return'
- Band of Angels (2005)
- The Trowenna Sea (2009)
- The Parihaka Woman (2011)
- His First Ball (published 1989 in Dear Miss Mansfield)
the makutu on Mrs Jones
Short story collections
- A Sense of Belonging
- Pounamu Pounamu
- The New Net Goes Fishing
- Growing Up Māori
- Yellow Brick Road
- Return To Oz
- Ask the Posts of the House
- The Whale Rider
- Big Brother Little Sister
- The Escalator
- Gathering of the Whakapapa
- Clenched Fist
- Catching Up
- Passing Time
- Kingfisher Come Home
- Masques and Roses
- Where's Waari?
- The Thrill of Falling
- Black, Eleanor (12 March 2016). "The Career Diplomat". The Dominion Post - Your Weekend magazine. Wellington. p. 9.
- Kiriona, Renee (7 June 2008). "Queen's Birthday Honours 2004: Witi Ihimaera". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
- Aldrich, Robert; Wotherspoon, Garry (2002). Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History. Routledge. pp. 204–5. ISBN 0-415-29161-5.
- Sunday Star Times, January 23, 2011
- Gracewood, Jolisa (2009). "Keeping it real". The Listener. 221 (3627). Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2010.
- Black, Joanne (2009). "Other people's words". The Listener. 221 (3629). Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2010.
- Savage, Jared (20 November 2009). "Plagiarists 'like drug cheats'". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "Witi Ihimaera admits plagiarism". New Zealand Herald. 6 November 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- Harper, Paul (21 September 2010). "Controversial novel not republished". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- "Queen's Birthday Honours 2004". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
- Megan Nicol Reed (18 October 2009). "'I write for the New Zealand I wish it to be'". The Sunday Star-Times. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
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