Witi Ihimaera was the first Maori to publish both a book of short stories and a novel, and since then has published many notable novels and collections of short stories. Described by Metro magazine as ‘Part oracle, part memoralist,' and ‘an inspired voice, weaving many stories together', Ihimaera has also written for stage and screen, edited books on the arts and culture, as well as published various works for children.
His best-known novel is The Whale Rider, which was made into a hugely, internationally successful film in 2002. His novel Nights in the Garden of Spainwas also made into a feature film, and was distributed internationally under the name of Kawa. The feature film White Lies was based on his novella Medicine Woman. And his novel Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies inspired the 2016 feature film Mahana. His first book, Pounamu, Pounamu, has not been out of print in the 40 years since publication.
He has also had careers in diplomacy, teaching, theatre, opera, film and television. In 1993 Ihimaera spent a year in France on the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship. He has received numerous awards, including the Wattie Book of the Year Award and the Montana Book Award, the inaugural Star of Oceania Award, University of Hawaii 2009, a laureate award from the New Zealand Arts Foundation 2009, the Toi Maori Maui Tiketike Award 2011, and the Premio Ostana International Award, presented to him in Italy 2010. In 2004 he became a Distinguished Companion of the Order of New Zealand (the equivalent of a knighthood).
- Short stories
- Short story writing
Maori Boy (2014)
Witi Ihimaera is a consummate storyteller — one critic calling him one of New Zealand's ‘finest and most memorable’. Some of his best stories, however, are about his own life. This honest, stirring work tells of the family and community into which Ihimaera was born, of his early life in rural New Zealand, of family secrets, of facing anguish and challenges, and of laughter and love. As Ihimaera tells of the myths that formed his early imagination, he also reveals the experiences from real life that wriggled into his fiction.
On the East Coast of New Zealand two patriarchs fight to be proclaimed king. Tamihana is the leader of the great Mahana family of shearers and sportsmen. Rupeni Poata is his arch-enemy. They will fight to win the title of Bulibasha and be proclaimed the King of the Gypsies, Caught in the middle of this struggle for power is the grandson of Tamihana and his wife Ramona, the teenage Simeon.
The Whale Rider (1987)
Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary "whale rider." In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild--and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, it is Kahu who saves the tribe when she reveals that she has the whale rider's ancient gift of communicating with whales.