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Penguin to republish Anne Salmond

28 February 2005

Penguin to republish previous award winners by Anne Salmond

Two seminal works by award winning Penguin author Anne Salmond will be republished in March in time to contribute to this election year’s inevitable debate about race relations. Amiria and Eruera, the ground-breaking studies of two Maori elders and their vast knowledge of lore and history, are as relevant today as they were when first published in the late 70s/early 80s. The books both won the Wattie Book of the Year award, precursor to today’s Montana Book Awards, which Salmond also won in 2004 for The Trial of the Cannibal Dog.

Both books were the result of collaboration with noted elders of Te Whaanau-a-Apanui and Ngati Porou, Eruera and Amiria Stirling, whom Salmond met and became close friends with during her first year at Auckland University.

“It was an odd thing for someone of my background to study Maori then; they were like my grandparents in a parallel universe!” says Salmond.

Salmond decided to write a thesis on decided to write thesis on Hui, the Maori ceremonial gatherings, and was taken by Eruera and Amiria to 60 or 70 gatherings all over the country.

Hui: A Study of Maori Ceremonial Gatherings was the result.

Because Amiria and Eruera were sources for much of the book, it wasn't a leap for Salmond to decide that Amiria herself should become the subject of another, more personal story.

Based on a collection of taped interviews by Salmond, Amiria is told in a charming narrative style that cuts to the very heart of Maori experience, conveying to the reader a deep understanding of what it is to be Maori.

The story begins with Amiria's birth at Tuparoa, a childhood spent in both her grandmother's raupo hut and the magnificent Williams homestead Kaharau; it takes the reader through her schooldays, her taumau (arranged) marriage to Eruera Stirling, farming on "The Coast" and latter days in Auckland, where the Stirlings lived as prominent elders until their deaths in 1983.

“I aimed to produce a text that sounded like her talking,” says Salmond.

Eruera, seemed a natural continuation inspired by his determination to pass on the traditional knowledge entrusted to him in his childhood by tribal elders and explain to a younger generation the deeper meanings of an ancestral way of life.

“When I started working with Eruera I faced the challenge of with tapu knowledge,” says Salmond.

“With him everything was very serious - he only told me the things that could be released,” she says.

Eruera is a very reflective, philosophical book on tribal history and of contemporary race relations, traditional concepts such as mana, matauranga and whakapapa, political movements and change among the Maori. MORE…

It also contains vivid descriptions of life in the Bay of Plenty in the era of whaling, maize cropping and kumara growing, and an account of his work with Sir Apirana Ngata.

“The book was published the same year as the Springbok tour (1981) and that coloured its reception,” says Salmond.

“As it was a statement from an important Maori elder – but many didn’t understand that Maori tribal knowledge belongs to a particular kin group, and the claims of one group could be denied by another,” she says.

However success was also the destiny for Eruera.

“I have love knowing that Maori people will read what I write, “ says Salmond.

“There have been challenges being a Pakeha person writing about Maori life, but it truly gives one a grounding and humility, realising that one’s information is always second hand,” she says.

“I think of Maori as my teachers not as informants, and in many ways they have shaped the way I think as an anthropologist.

“In the end it is about respecting the mana of the people I write about, and of tapu as a power in the world.”

ENDS

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