Congratulations to Communications Studies lecturer Dr Atakohu Middleton (Ngāti Māhanga, Pākehā) who has been shortlisted in the Pikihuia Awards for her short story Wairua.
Dr Middleton is a finalist in the Emerging Writers – te reo Māori category, alongside Iraia Bailey and Zeb Tamihana Nicklin.
Dr Middleton’s 1800-word story is about a middle-aged, female Māori detective who is called to a motel room where someone had died some months previously to find out why guests since have been suffering unnerving experiences. The detective calls on her father to help solve a case that police recruiters would probably call “a better work story.”
Dr Middleton wrote the story to help redress a shortage of creative writing for adult Māori speakers. “The writing talent we do have in this area tends to be directed into novels for rangatahi in whare kura, as this is the most urgent need. In addition to that, we’re short of writing that portrays Māori as competent and confident, contributing to mainstream life in Aotearoa, rather than framed in deficit.”
She adds, “The recent furore over the TV series Vegas tells you that many Māori – including this one – are fed up with Māori in story-telling being depicted as members of gangs, involved in drugs, with fractured family relationships, disconnected from iwi and reo and so on.”
Wairua will be published in Huia Short Stories 14, alongside the stories of other finalists written in te reo and in English.
The Pikihuia Awards is one of two programmes by the Māori Literature Trust designed to support Māori writers by identifying new talent, developing their skills and providing opportunities to be published.
Bilingual Television New Zealand journalist Maiki Sherman judged the category Emerging Writers – te reo Māori, and said, “Congratulations to all the finalists for putting your passion onto paper. The world needs more Māori authors and the best way to achieve this is for aspiring writers to simply start.”
The winners will be announced at a ceremony at Te Wharewaka o Pōneke in Wellington on Saturday, 25 September 2021.
The winner of each category will receive a cash prize of $2000, and two highly commended finalists in each category will receive a cash prize of $500 each.