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Prestigious Māori Literature Awards Celebrate Success Online: 2021 Pikihuia Awards Winners Announced

The winners of the 2021 Pikihuia Awards, the short story writing awards hosted by the Māori Literature Trust, were announced in an online ceremony streamed on Saturday afternoon.

While whānau and supporters of the finalists could not gather at Te Wharewaka o Pōneke as they usually would, the online ceremony recognised the achievements of 18 Māori writers and their stories in a new format.

‘The Pikihuia Awards are always a special event. So it was important that we could include all of our finalists in this online celebration. Our judges called the finalists in advance to meet them and discuss their stories – a valuable experience for any writer to get encouragement and feedback on their writing,’ said Robyn Bargh, Chair of the Māori Literature Trust.

The awards have four categories: First-time writer in te reo Māori, First-time writer in English, Emerging writer in te reo Māori and Emerging writer in English. Judges Carol Hirschfeld, Maiki Sherman, Emma Espiner and Vini Olsen-Reeder each judged one category and each choose two highly commended stories and one winner.

The selected stories this year covered themes such as mental health, language revitalisation, the health sector, lockdown and coming of age. ‘The awards encourage diverse Māori viewpoints in writing, and as a judge that’s what, overwhelmingly, makes it so exciting to participate in – to have the opportunity to bear witness to that depth of creativity and breadth of experience that is being expressed in storytelling,’ said Carol Hirschfeld.

The awards particularly promote original writing in Māori language, something critically needed in the literature landscape of Aotearoa. Vini Olsen-Reeder acknowledged the finalists’ effective use of language in this year’s entries to tell a compelling story that would appeal to a Māori-speaking reader, 'ko tāku i rapu ai, ko te reo kua eke ki tētahi āhuatanga e mōhio ai au ka mārama ki te kaipānui kōrero Māori, kia Māori ai tōna whai, nōna e pānui ana.'

The Pikihuia Awards have a long legacy of championing Māori literature and forging pathways to success for aspiring and emerging writers. ‘The world needs more Māori authors, and the best way to achieve this is for aspiring writers to simply start. Thanks, therefore, to the Pikihuia Awards for creating pathways that inspire the next generation of writers to take up the challenge,’ said Maiki Sherman.

Emma Espiner, too, reinforced the role Māori literature plays in today’s society. She says, ‘It is important for us as writers to tell our stories, but it is of critical importance to Aotearoa that Māori writers write our own stories. Indigenous storytelling is, and has always been, the beating heart of this country. Having had the honour and privilege of judging this category, I am full of hope for the future of Māori writing.’

All finalists, plus selected entries from the awards, have been published in the book Huia Short Stories 14 (Huia Publishers), which was launched at the online awards ceremony. All finalists recieved a year’s membership to the New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa. The highly commended writers recieve a monetary prize, and the winners recieve a Mac Book Air and a monetary prize.

The 2021 Pikihuia Awards are made possible by the support of sponsors Creative New Zealand, Huia Publishers, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Te Māngai Pāho and Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa The New Zealand Society of Authors.

The winners and highly commended writers for each categorys are as follows:

First-time writer in te reo Māori, judged by Vini Olsen-Reeder

Ngā Hoa Hoariri by Bonice Ropiha (Ngāti Kahungunu), Napier

Highly commended: He Rūkahu Rānei by Panitahi Howe (Ngāti Manawa), Napier

Ki Hea Noa Iho? by Jordanah-Lee Hohipa (Tūhoe), Auckland

First-time writer in English, judged by Emma Espiner


Food Porn for the Incapacitated by Merryn Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa), Hastings

Highly commended:

The Skinhead by Te Ariki Wi Neera (Ngāti Toa Rangatira), Kāpiti Coast

Argentine Ants and My Search for Hawaiki by J. Wiremu Kane (Ngāpuhi), Thames

Emerging writer in te reo Māori, judged by Maiki Sherman


Pōhutukawa me Tana Āporo by Zeb Tamihana Nicklin (Ngāti Pāhauwera, Tūhoe, Ruapani, Ngā Tokorima a Hinemanuhiri, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri), Palmerston North

Highly commended:

Wairua by Atakohu Middleton (Ngāti Māhanga), Auckland

Iti te Kupu, Nui te Kōrero by Zeb Tamihana Nicklin (Ngāti Pāhauwera, Tūhoe, Ruapani, Ngā Tokorima a Hinemanuhiri, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri), Palmerston North

Emerging writer in English, judged by Carol Hirschfeld


Two Letters by Nadine Anne Hura (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi), Porirua

Highly commended:

Let It Be/Waiho by Chris Reed (Ngāti Porou), Auckland

The Bus Driver by Miriama Gemmell (Ngāti Pāhauwera, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa), Raumati Beach

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