Penguin has released two sibling texts, one fiction (Te Awa o Kupu) celebrating the many rich threads that run through Aotearoa New Zealand’s breadth of expertise in this area, and this magnificent compilation of nonfiction texts from our great writers.
Non-fiction, as a genre, seems to be finding its own. Innovative, creative non-fiction is finding new and uncharted territory with writers and readers alike. Thinking of non-fiction as little more than articles and biographies is now out of date.
The range of writing comes from 2017 - 2022 and gives insight into the psyche and the concerns of the time. The contemporary issues of Māori writers have a similar vein to previous anthologies with the importance of things like sovereignty, te reo Māori, contentious political dialogue, and voyaging; however, there is also a new flavour coming through which covers aspects of gender, mātauranga Māori, and - of course - the importance of the environment given the climate change concerns.
There are approximately 60 pieces of writing in this collection compiled by the wonderful Witi Ihimaera. Its title ‘Ngā kupu wero’, as the name suggests, is a kind of challenge from the writers to all kinds of people, and things in society and in Aotearoa New Zealand. Not the first type of its kind, Witi has been heavily involved in the gathering and sharing of stories - both fiction and non-fiction - since the 1980s. In this collection, however, the prominence of online publications certainly comes through strongly.
Hirini Moko Mead, a stalwart of Māori writings - has a wonderful piece about what actually is mātauranga Māori in the context of modern society. It’s a poignant piece with the changes to the education system well underway under the current administration. In addition, a piece by Joanna Kidman about the importance of knowing and appreciating te reo Māori brings new light to the collective understanding of what culture is and how it operates. It’s a fresh position and one highly worthy of investigating further.
There are so many challenging and encouraging reads throughout the book, and it develops new narratives which celebrate the indigenous perspective. Overall, it's the ability to get to the point and to articulate where to next. It’s provocative, it’s fascinating, and it’s almost revolutionary at times.
Reviewer: Chris Reed