Published by Anton Blank, Ora Nui 4, Māori Literary Journal is a special edition of the Māori literary journal Ora Nui, where writing and artwork by the indigenous peoples of New Zealand and Taiwan are presented side-by-side.
According to the Austronesian Migration Theory, Māori descend from the indigenous tribes of Taiwan, who migrated widely. As a result of this migration, New Zealand and Taiwan share genealogical, linguistic, and cultural connections. In this ground-breaking special edition of Māori literary journal Ora Nui, writing and artwork by the indigenous peoples of New Zealand and Taiwan are presented side-by-side. The resulting journal is a rich offering of short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, essays and visual art.
Anton (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) says ‘This issue of Ora Nui is a jewel; light dances across the words and images sparking joy and wonder. It is filled with contributions from my favourite Māori and Taiwanese writers and artists.’
We asked him some questions about this ground-breaking work.
How long have you been publishing these special anthologies? And how did you get started?
I published the first issue of Ora Nui in 2012. It was an idea I’d had for a while, a Māori literary journal, and Creative New Zealand has supported every issue. Also, I wanted to see more diversity in Māori literature, queer stories, urban stories – Māori writing about a broad range of contemporary issues. With each issue, the international dimension has developed, so it’s now about Māori driving a discussion about global issues.
How do you think the NZ Aotearoa literary landscape has changed over that time?
There are a lot more Māori writing for starters, there’s a younger GenZ-Millennial Māori perspective that I really like, and I also love the work of Māori writing abroad. Spoken word has also been very influential for some of these writers. Looking more broadly I’m aware of young writers using social media, and self-publishing.
There’s such a lot of jewelled work in Ora Nui – it’s dense with poetry and art and prose. What sort of undertaking was it for you – how long did you commit to it?
It was a massive undertaking that was project-managed by Kiri Piahana-Wong. Overall, it was a two-year project, interrupted by COVID, and complex because we were working across a linguistic and cultural border. Much credit to Kiri and our editor in Taiwan, SuShin. Nigel Borell, then working for the Auckland Art Gallery, helped source some of the Māori visual art.
What were you looking for, in your selection?
We wanted to explore the Austronesian migration which is articulated explicitly in the scholarly and academic contributions. Across the poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction the connections between New Zealand and Taiwan are more thematic and nuanced. We were looking for writing with a clear point of view and beauty in the text.
Anton, you hold many roles: you’re a child advocate, a publisher, communications consultant and author. How do you think your wider career and advocate work has shaped Ora Nui 4?
I want to elevate Māori literature, to put it at the centre of a discussion about who we are as New Zealanders and in the world. It’s a leadership mission because when I travel, I see how much the world needs indigenous knowledge and concepts. Māori need to be centrally positioned in this international discourse and development.
What changes would you like to see in our literary landscape?
Diversity is definitely the new thing that I’d like to see more in Māori writing, stories about sexuality, gender fluidity, our digital identities. We’re very attached to conservative cultural traditions and preoccupied with colonisation. We’re still prone to writing about an idealised rural Māori experience, when for most of us that’s not how we live anymore. I’m interested in work that explores who we are now and who we will be in the future.
What is next for you, Anton?
I’m exploring another project with our Taiwanese partner, exploring queer and indigenous narratives. I’m also writing a book about racism and re-publishing my short story collection Global Roaming.