Monday December 10, 2018

If Gods can be gay, why can’t we? Maori author Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to Maoris in New Zealand

Ihimaera's book 'Nights in the Gardens of Spain', a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out, was turned into a movie

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Witi Ihimaera. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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– by Preetha Nair

Sept 04, 2016: Aboriginal, litterateur, and rebel, Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to the Maoris in New Zealand. The first published novelist in Maori literature, the 72-year-old has several novels, short stories and recognitions to his credit.

September Aboriginal, litterateur, and rebel, Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to the Maoris in New Zealand. The first published novelist in Maori literature, the 72-year-old has several novels, short stories and recognitions to his credit.

His works were a harbinger of change to the Maoris, says Ihimaera who questioned in his works.

Ihimaera’s book ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’, a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out, was turned into a movie.

The author, who also worked as a diplomat at the New ZealandMinistry of Foreign Affairs, spoke to IANS on the sidelines of Mountain Echoes Literary Festival held in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.

Maori People. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Maori People. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Excerpts from the interview:

Q) You were the first published novelist in Maori literature. How important is it to tell stories of the marginalised?

A) It is important to tell the story of the Maori in a world of huge voices and political entities. We are a minority, and also one among the many indigenous communities around the world. Our story will help give voice to other indigenous people whether they live in India, or North America or in South East Asia. We all have the same stories of colonisation.

Q) Did you face resistance from the West?

A) My life was always about resistance. We were denied educational opportunities and there was institutional racism. Our land has been taken away and I have seen my grandmothers struggling for land to farm. The consequence of our fight through literature and other means was that our land was returned after 30 years. The government is providing better housing and education for the Maoris now. There is a better understanding of Maori culture now and my work is a part of New Zealand’s curriculum.

Q) You came out of the closet in 1984 and have dealt with sexuality in your writings. How was it received?

A) One has to be brave when dealing with issues like rape and homosexuality. There is authentication of sexual identity in mythology that has been denied by the West. Europeans look towards Gods in Greek mythology who can shapeshift and make love with women, men and animals just like some Hindu gods. Why can’t we accept homosexuality in the way our mythology explains it? I operate in a Maori value system and don’t care what people say.

Witi Ihimaera memorial plaque in Dunedin. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Witi Ihimaera memorial plaque in Dunedin. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Q) In your memoir, you have written about being abused as a child. How difficult was it to write about it and what was the reaction?

A) I always adopt an organic approach to writing, looking at it culturally and socially. I wanted to address the issue of child abuse. My work has always been a shock to many. The Maori community is now largely Christian and it was difficult for them to acknowledge it. I am accustomed to shift the universe a little. That’s my theory of change. Each one of us has the power to change the system.

Q) Who’s your favourite Indian author?

A) It should be Arundhati Roy. She is an intellectual and erudite woman.

(IANS)

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  • Arya Sharan

    Homosexuality is not abnormal it is just our choice of sexuality and the sooner we understand this, the better it is. Art and literature are the best means to spread awareness about such issues.

  • Arya Sharan

    Homosexuality is not abnormal, it is just a choice of sexuality by an individual and the sooner we realize this the better it is for mankind. Art and literature is probably the best way to spread awareness about issues like this.

  • Arya Sharan

    Homosexuality is not a sin and art and literature is the best away to create awareness regarding such issues.

  • Anubhuti Gupta

    this article is a great read. To get to know an author who has been through so much.

SHARE
  • Arya Sharan

    Homosexuality is not abnormal it is just our choice of sexuality and the sooner we understand this, the better it is. Art and literature are the best means to spread awareness about such issues.

  • Arya Sharan

    Homosexuality is not abnormal, it is just a choice of sexuality by an individual and the sooner we realize this the better it is for mankind. Art and literature is probably the best way to spread awareness about issues like this.

  • Arya Sharan

    Homosexuality is not a sin and art and literature is the best away to create awareness regarding such issues.

  • Anubhuti Gupta

    this article is a great read. To get to know an author who has been through so much.

Next Story

After Being Stranded, 145 Pilot Whales Die In New Zealand

Marine mammals are frequently stranded on New Zealand's coasts and the average number of operations carried out by environmental officials is about 85 per year

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Pilot whales
Pilot whales. Flickr

About 145 pilot whales died in New Zealand after being stranded during the weekend on Stewart Island in the extreme south of the country, officials said on Monday.

A hiker alerted authorities on Saturday night about the situation of the whales, who were stranded in Mason Bay in two separate groups about two kilometers apart, a Department of Conservation of New Zealand release said.

Pilot whales
Almost 150 whales die in mass stranding. BBC

Half of the whales were dead when rescuers arrived and the condition of the rest, by the time they were found, was so bad it was decided to euthanise them, said Ren Leppens, operations manager at Rakiura.

“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low. The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise,” said Leppens.

Pilot whales
A volunteer looks after a whale, part of a pod of stranded pilot whales.

Pilot whales, also called long-finned pilot whale, are a specimen with a bulging forehead and a robust body that can reach between six and seven meters in length, Xinhua news agency reported.

Also Read: The Ocean And Its Climate Crisis

Marine mammals are frequently stranded on New Zealand’s coasts and the average number of operations carried out by environmental officials is about 85 per year, most of them to save these animals individually.

The reasons why whales and dolphins can become stranded have not been clarified, although it is attributed to diseases, navigation errors, sudden changes in tides, being chased by predators or extreme weather conditions. (IANS)