Highly commended for Reo-Māori story

05 Nov, 2021
Dr Atakohu Middleton
Dr Atakohu Middleton. Photo credit: Simon Smith

A short story in te reo Māori by AUT lecturer Dr Atakohu Middleton, from the School of Communication Studies has won an award in a national fiction competition.

The 1800-word story, titled Wairua, follows a police officer who is called to a motel to investigate strange experiences that are scaring guests away. It was highly commended in the category Emerging writer in te reo Māori at the Pikihuia Awards for writers of Māori whakapapa, held online on Saturday.

The winner of the section, judged by Television New Zealand journalist Maiki Sherman, was Zeb Nicklin, a Palmerston North Māori-language teacher, with his kōrero Pōhutukawa me Tana Āporo. His story Iti te Kupu, Nui te Kōrero was also highly commended.

The awards have three other categories: first-time writer in te reo (judged by Victoria University academic Vini Olsen-Reeder); first-time writer in English (judged by broadcaster Emma Espiner); and emerging writer in English (judged by broadcaster Carol Hirschfeld).

The awards attracted hundreds of entries, which where blind-judged and whittled down to 18 finalists. The stories covered subjects as wide-ranging as mental health, language revitalisation, the health sector, lockdown and coming of age. The judges each chose two highly commended stories and one winner. Read the full results.

Speaking at the awards in te reo and then in English, Dr Middleton, who works in the School of Communication Studies, described how her writing journey started.

“Tekau mā rima tau ki muri nei, i te wā i tīmata ai taku ako i te reo Māori, ko te pānui pukapuka tētehi rautaki āku hei whakawhānui i taku pātaka kupu. Heoi, i taua wā, ruarua noa iho ngā pūrākau auaha mō ngā pakeke, me ngā kupu āhua māmā te mārama. Nō reira, i tīmata au ki te tuhituhi i ēnei momo pūrākau.”

“When I started learning te reo 15 years ago, reading fiction in te reo was one of my main strategies to broaden my vocabulary. But at the time, there was very little original fiction for adults like me who wanted adult stories that used straightforward language. So, I decided to have a go at writing some.”

The biennial competition, now in its third decade, is run by Te Waka Taki Kōrero The Māori Literature Trust and Huia Publishers to encourage new writers.

The award-wining stories from this year’s competition have been published as Huia Short Stories 14, available as a printed book and an e-book.

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