Tina Makereti

My project explored how stories are central to the reclamation and revitalisation of identities that have been decimated by colonisation.

PhD awarded 2013

Tina writes: 'I completed an MA Creative Writing in 2008, which formed the basis of my short story collection, Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa, (Huia 2010). The seed of my PhD project was planted in 2002, when my daughter was born and given the tupuna (ancestral) name of her great, great, great grandmother, who we believed was Moriori. For years the seed germinated: Who was our ancestor? What does it mean to be Moriori? How do we go about claiming this identity? When I heard about the PhD Creative Writing, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to find out.

'Both the critical and creative components of my project explored how stories are central to the reclamation and revitalisation of identities that have been decimated by colonisation. The primacy of narrative in understanding, explaining and transmitting cultural and familial identity was explored.

'Using textual analysis for the critical component of the research, I began with many books but finally settled on intense analysis of Patricia Grace's Baby No-Eyes and Kim Scott's Benang. I examined how these authors change our personal, cultural and national understandings of ourselves by re-imagining the accepted historical stories or national myths. I addressed Indigenous perspectives on how Story is used as a way to recognise, question and understand identity, and in doing so discovered how Indigenous literature actively innovates and creates new forms and expressions of identity.

'The creative component consisted of a novel that addresses the complex web of interrelationships that occurred between Moriori, Pākehā and Māori settlers from the early 1800s through to contemporary times. The invasion of Rēkohu, the subsequent survival of the Moriori people and their exceptional pacifist culture had not been addressed in fiction very extensively. One reason for fictional re-visioning of historical stories is that it may help indigenous points of view to continue to gain new cultural and societal life and replace long held national fallacies. I hoped that by centering Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (Random House, 2014) around Moriori cultural perspectives, it may bear witness to the renewed understanding, pride and assertion of Moriori identity.'

Bio: Tina Makereti writes novels, essays and short stories. The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke (Random House, 2018) is her fourth book. Her short story, 'Black Milk', won the Pacific Regional Commonwealth Short Story Prize (2016). Her first novel, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (Vintage, 2014) has been described as 'a remarkable [book that] spans generations of Moriori, Māori and Pākehā descendants as they grapple with a legacy of pacifism, violent domination and cross-cultural dilemmas.' It was longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and won the 2014 Ngā Kupu Ora Aotearoa Māori Book Award for Fiction, also won by her short story collection, Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa (Huia, 2011).

In 2009 Tina was the recipient of the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing (Non-fiction) and the Pikihuia Award for Best Short Story Written in English. She has presented her work all over New Zealand and in Frankfurt, Taipei, Jamaica and the UK. Makereti has a PhD Creative Writing from Victoria University of Wellington, and in 2014 she convened the first Māori & Pasifika Writing Workshop at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington.

Tina teaches into the BA, Masters and PhD Creative Writing programmes at Massey University, Palmerston North. She is of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Rangatahi, Pākehā and, according to family stories, Moriori descent.

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