Interview: Anton Blank talks about Ora Nui 4
Anton Blank is the editor and founder of the Māori literary journal Ora Nui. Anton is also the co-author of REWIRE: The Little Book About Bias, and the author of the short story collection Global Roaming.
In this ground-breaking special edition of Māori literary journal Ora Nui, writing and artwork by the indigenous peoples of New Zealand and Taiwan are presented side-by-side. The resulting journal is a rich offering of short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, essays and visual art.
Anton talks to NZ Booklovers about Ora Nui. What inspired you to publish this book?
I’d known about the theory of the Austronesian migration for a while, and felt that it was an aspect of Māori origins and history that we don’t hear much about. I went to the Taipei Book Fair over a number of years and as a result met SuShin from BK Norton, a publishing house in Taipei. Shin and I were keen to work together, because both of us have indigenous heritage. So creating a journal exploring our shared history was a logical collaboration.
How did you select the contributors?
We were looking for a range of contributions that explored the Austronesian migration and indigeneity explicitly or thematically. We also wanted a range of work, so we were also thinking about diversity and issues like gender and sexuality. Above all the writing needed to be compelling and beautiful.
The journal was a massive undertaking which was project managed by Kiri Piahana-Wong and SuShin. Once the work was selected, it was down to the meticulous process of editing and compiling the journal. Because we were working across cultural, linguistic and geographic borders, it was a long, slow process, interrupted by COVID, which took two years all up.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
Writer in the Dark, Lorde
Miles from Heaven, Torraine Futurum
Promises (with Sam Smith), Calvin Harris
What did you enjoy the most about publishing this collection?
I liked the contrast between the Aotearoa and Taiwanese contributions. Our histories of colonisation, biculturalism and multiculturalism are so different but the similarities emerge thematically. We are all questioning the authenticity of our identities against the backdrop of our histories, and in the context of our global positioning and experience. Also, I love the visual art we have included and the interplay between the images and text. The Māori contributions were curated by Nigel Borell.
If you had to pick a personal favourite from Ora Nui 4, what would it be, and why?
I like Joshua Hema’s essay The Whitest of Nan’s Mokos very much because it resonates with my own experience as a bicultural, indigenous cis-male. I also think his philosophical references are clever and whimsical. I love Reretan Pavavaljung’s painting contributions, and wish I had bought some of his work when I was in Taiwan. Some of his figures have their heads tipped sideways which is very reminiscent of Robyn Kahukiwa.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
The Prophet, by African American writer Robert Jones Jnr. It’s a gay lovely story set on a Mississippi plantation, that hurtles towards a cataclysmic crisis. It is brutal, otherworldly and very sensual. Jones is being heralded as the new James Baldwin and I can see why. Now I’m diving into Murakami’s short story collection First Person Singular.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’m about to publish a second edition of short story collection Global Roaming and I’m writing a short book on racism. I’ve just had the draft of my novel The Influencer peer reviewed so I need to get onto knocking it into shape for publication 2022.