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Once Were Warriors: The Aftermath

Book Release
Once Were Warriors: The Aftermath

isbn 978-90-5260-236-3, 184 pages, €24,90

Author Documents the Controversy of Warriors in Aotearoa New Zealand


In 1990 unknown Maori author Alan Duff suddenly became both famous and notorious in New Zealand for his first novel Once Were Warriors. The violent story of a poor urban Maori family aroused much controversy in New Zealand society, and the Maori community in particular. Many Maori commentators condemned the novel for its negative and allegedly racist portrayal of the indigenous Maoripeople, accusing Duff for 'hanging out the dirty linen' and 'blaming the victim'. Four years later, the homonymous film by Maori director Lee Tamahori led to similar fame and controversy. On the one hand, critics strongly disapproved of the commercial indigenous film on social, political and aesthetic grounds. On the other hand however, Once Were Warriors became the most successful motion picture in the history of New Zealand cinema, grossing over 6.7 million NZ dollars in the national box office and reaching a large international audience. Once Were Warriors was not just a novel or film, but a powerful cultural representation which had a significant impact on New Zealand society.

In the book Once Were Warriors: The Aftermath Dutch film scholar Emiel Martens examines the impact of Once Were Warriors in New Zealand by exploring the two cultural representations (with a strong emphasis on the film) and their aftermath in postcolonial New Zealand society: Why did Once Were Warriors cause such a controversy within the Maori community? Which were the underlying metaphors of the public debate on both the novel and the film in New Zealand society? And what did the heated reception of Once Were Warriors say about the position and identity of the indigenous Maori people within modern New Zealand? Bringing together a wide variety of popular and academic texts, the author discusses these urgent questions in relation to timely New Zealand and wider postcolonial issues such as racial stereotypes, cultural politics, ethnic relations, indigenous media and Maoriidentity. As an interdisciplinary Cultural Studies endeavour, this book is surprisingly accessible and will prove interesting reading for anyone who wishes to know more about indigenous filmmaking in postcolonial New Zealand.

Emiel Martens is a Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam.


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