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Honour goes to distinguished writer

7 April 2005

Honour goes to distinguished writer

Acclaimed Samoan novelist, poet, and educator, Professor Albert Wendt CNZM, will receive an honorary doctorate from Victoria University at its May 2005 graduation celebration.

Professor Wendt, who is one of Victoria’s most distinguished alumni, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature for his contribution to Pacific and New Zealand literature over the past 40 years.

As the foremost writer of the South Pacific and winner of several major literary prizes, Professor Wendt has played a major role in promoting Pacific creative writing and the academic study of the Pacific, says Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh.

“Through Professor Wendt’s writing—both creative and critical—he is responsible for exploding outdated representations of the Pacific. His writing is deeply rooted in the heritage and everyday life of people from Samoa and the Pacific, but it also reflects the experience of individuals everywhere.

“Professor Wendt has also played a major role in laying the foundation for Pacific Studies—the study of Pacific culture, art, history, politics, economics and art. As a senior academic and writer he has mentored and supported new generations of Pacific scholars and artists.

“Within his dual roles of writer and educator, Professor Wendt has pioneered a new understanding of the diversity and depth of indigenous literature throughout the Pacific. It is also important to note that he is a significant New Zealand writer who has been influential, since the 1970s, in the development and shaping of New Zealand literature.”

Professor Wendt was born in Apia, Samoa, and is a member of the Aiga Sa-Tuaopepe of Lefaga, the Aiga Sa-Maualaivao of Malie, and the Aiga Sa-Patu of Vaiala. After attending primary school in Samoa, he moved to New Zealand and was educated at New Plymouth Boys' High School, Ardmore Teachers' College and Victoria University, where he attained a Master of Arts in History. Since 1988 he has been Professor of English at the University of Auckland. He also holds the prestigious Citizens' Chair at the University of Hawai’i.

Throughout his illustrious academic career in Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and now Hawai’i, Professor Wendt has found time to publish six novels, four collections of short stories, four collections of poetry, plays, critical articles and has edited various anthologies of Pacific writing. Two of his books, Sons for the Return Home and Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree, have been made into feature films. His third novel, Leaves of the Banyan Tree, won the prestigious New Zealand Watties Book of the Year Award in 1980 and his novel, Ola, won the South-East Asia and Pacific Section of the Commonwealth Book Prize in 1991. His work has been translated into many languages.

Recently he has been awarded New Zealand's Senior Pacific Islands Artist's Award (2003), Japan's Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture (2004), the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2000) for services to literature, and New Zealand's Montana national book award for the anthology he co-edited, Whetu Moana (2004).

At the invitation of many governments and organisations, Professor Wendt has travelled throughout the Pacific, Europe, Asia and North America to give lectures and readings. His work is studied with other modern post-colonial and indigenous writers of distinction throughout the world.


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