University talents are Ockham Book Awards finalists
1 April 2023
Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland is well-represented on the short list at the 2023 Ockham Book Awards.
A number of staff, alumni and a student are finalists in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards – winners to be announced on 17 May at the Auckland Writers Festival.
In the general non-fiction award category, Professor Melinda Webber and doctoral student Te Kapua O’Connor are finalists for A Fire in the Belly of Hineāmaru: A Collection of Narratives about Te Tai Tokerau Tūpuna (Auckland University Press).
Melinda (Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whakaue) told UniNews last year the book showcases the inspiring lives of ancestors in Te Tai Tokerau and Auckland. The deputy dean in the Faculty of Education and Social Work said: “We grew up without positive narratives about ourselves ...
“The common narrative is that we were the first to be ‘missionised’ and Christianised, and we then became warmongers. That was the story we were taught of our ancestors.”
Those stereotypes shape who young Māori think they can be, she said. “They can become self-fulfilling prophesies, so our young people really need counter-narratives.”
Co-author Te Kapua O'Connor (Ngāti Kurī, Pohūtiare), is a PhD student in Māori Studies. He says while many ancestor stories exist, not many have been collected in an easily accessible book and, given that New Zealand history is now compulsory, teachers will be looking for resources.
“Melinda, like her ancestor, the eponymous Hineāmaru, is also a woman of action, securing a Marsden Fast-Start Grant and leading a kaupapa to feed tamariki, taiohi and their whānau with our histories,” he says. Quentin Hita translated the book into te reo Māori.
Once Te Kapua and Melinda started looking, they found stories “everywhere and anywhere”, including in PhDs and other manuscripts.
“But then we put another layer on top by talking to people and getting their interpretations,” says Te Kapua.
The common narrative is that we were the first to be ‘missionised’ and Christianised, and we then became warmongers. That was the story we were taught of our ancestors.
In the same category, alumnus Dr Ned Fletcher (PhD Law, 2015) is a finalist with The English Text of the Treaty of Waitangi (Bridget Williams Books).
Alumna Dr Nina Tonga (PhD Art History, 2022) is a finalist in the illustrated non-fiction award. She was a co-editor on Robin White: Something Is Happening Here (Te Papa Press and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki).
Up for the poetry award is another Auckland University Press book, Always Italicise: How to Write While Colonised by Dr Alice Te Punga Somerville (Te Āti Awa, Taranaki). Alice did her MA in English at Auckland, her PhD at Cornell University and is now a professor at the University of British Colombia.
Representing the Science faculty at the University is Robert Vennell’s book Secrets of the Sea: The Story of New Zealand’s Native Sea Creatures (HarperCollins). It is a finalist in the award for illustrated non-fiction and features historical illustrations as well as photos. Robert finished his MSc in 2017 and his previous book was the best-selling The Meaning of Trees.
The item first appeared in UniNews April 2023.
The winners will be announced on Wednesday 17 May as part of the Auckland Writers Festival.