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Victoria’s creative talent takes international stage

Victoria’s creative talent takes international stage

Work by Victoria University students and alumni will feature prominently among New Zealand writing at an event that every year attracts three times the visitors expected for the Rugby World Cup.

One hundred New Zealand books will be showcased at the Frankfurt Book Fair, following New Zealand’s selection as the guest of honour for the event. The annual book fair held in October is the world’s largest and attracts up to 300,000 people from the international publishing world.

One of those whose work will be on show at Frankfurt is Tina Makereti. Her collection of short stories, Once Upon A Time in Aotearoa, explores a world where mythological characters and stories become part of everyday life and old and new worlds co-exist.

It was largely written while she was completing an MA in Creative Writing at Victoria’s International Institute of Modern Letters and is one of several books on the Frankfurt list with an indigenous theme.

Tina says having her short stories profiled in Frankfurt is an honour and an opportunity.

“It gives exposure to a much bigger audience than you reach in New Zealand. I hope to contribute to greater diversity within Māori literature. An international reviewer said Taika Waititi’s film Boy is not very Māori because what people expect from a Māori film is something more like Whale Rider, but there are many sides to being Māori.”

Once Upon A Time in Aotearoa has already achieved some international exposure after a professor at Harvard University saw an excerpt in the International Institute of Modern Letters online literary journal, Turbine, and included it as a text in her folklore course.

Tina is now completing a PhD in Creative Writing and is the first recipient of Victoria’s Ahumairangi scholarship, which was established to help grow Māori postgraduate student numbers.

She began her PhD in 2009 and says receiving the Ahumairangi scholarship a year later made a huge difference by relieving financial pressure and allowing her to focus on her studies.

Part of her PhD project is exploring how stories are central to reclaiming and revitalising identities that have been decimated by colonisation. The other part is writing a novel that addresses the complex web of interrelationships that occurred between Moriori, Pākehā and Māori settlers from the early 1800s until now.

Tina says the idea for her PhD project came from her daughter being given the name of a Moriori ancestor at birth.

“Both my daughter and I have very mixed heritage – Māori, Moriori and Pākehā - and I was interested in what that blend of different backgrounds means to a contemporary New Zealander.”

The Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters, Professor Bill Manhire, says Tina is joined on the Frankfurt list by 14 other Victoria creative writing graduates and current students. That includes another Māori alumnus, Whiti Hereaka, author of The Graphologist’s Apprentice, and writers such as Laurence Fearnley, Elizabeth Knox, Craig Cliff, Jenny Pattrick and Alison Wong.

Professor Manhire says Germany is an excellent market in which to have the spotlight on New Zealand writing.

“In Europe, there is a lot of interest in new literature from young countries like New Zealand and particularly in Māori literature, which has an exotic edge.

“A lot of German and Dutch publishers include translated works on their lists and they are always on the hunt for new material.”

He says short stories, like Tina Makereti’s, have potential to be particularly successful with publishers looking for shorter, teaching texts.

Professor Manhire’s soon-to-be published Selected Poems is also on the list of 100 New Zealand books for Frankfurt as is the work The Best of Best New Zealand Poems which he edited together with Damien Wilkins, a Senior Lecturer in the International Institute of Modern Letters.


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