MoWo: MOving WOrds

Wai-te-ata Press’s annual translation in NZ secondary schools competition, co-sponsored by Victoria’s New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation.

Wai-te-ata Moving Words project

Reflecting New Zealand’s multi-ethnic and multilingual society, Moving Words celebrates literature, languages, and cultures in secondary schools and to inspire and reward excellence in literary translation by secondary level students. Founded in 2014, the Moving Words project has aimed to explore and celebrate the act of translation. Translation – the transfer of meaning in all its forms: from one language to another or from one sign system to another – is arguably the most complex, fascinating and rewarding act of communication. To understand and perform this process means to be able to understand and share our similarities and our differences, negotiating ideas, values, emotions, and behaviours beyond our culture-specific individuality and intentions.

MoWo 2014, the inaugural competition for literary translation by New Zealand secondary-level students, showcased a range of high quality work. We were delighted to receive 38 entries in and between a variety of languages: Afrikaans, Chinese, Croatian, Flemish, English, French, Latin, te reo Māori, New Zealand Sign Language, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. Winner were: Chelsea Hepi, Tainui Tauroa, Ranui Isaacs, Eden Nuku, and Chareef-leen Reti from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Ara Hou in Napier for their translation from English into te reo Māori of The Death Bed by Siegfried Sassoon; Sarah Tastard from Wanganui High School for her translation from Spanish into English of The First Dream by Leonel Alvarado; and Karan Patel from Ormiston Senior College in Auckland for his translation from English into New Zealand Sign Language of If by Rudyard Kipling.

In 2015, we again asked New Zealand students to choose a piece of prose or poetry in any language and translate it into English, te reo Māori, or New Zealand Sign Language. MoWo 2015 added the condition that the chosen work should relate to the theme of peace. We received translations from French, Spanish, and Chinese, all into English and presented awards for the most skilful translations. Kesia Kurian and Bethany Cheeseman received an award of $1000 for overall excellence in their translation of Victor Hugo's poem Après la Bataille. Grace Thurlow's translation of Un poema para el mundo, by Ramiro Pinto, was the runner up, and Kadin Good and Hannah Prior received awards of excellence for their translations of En Paz and 我渴望和平 respectively. Katherine Bonné also received an award of excellence for her translation of Légion, but was unable to attend the ceremony.

In 2016, entries were based on the theme of One Planet, One Humanity: Postcards from New Zealand to the World. Students were encouraged to respond to the MoWo theme with a ‘Postcard from NZ’ to the world, write a 200 word caption and translate it into a language of their choice. Distinguished award winners who were flown in for the occasion were: Danielle Cooper from John Paul College, Rotorua [French]; Alva Feldmeier from Logan Park High School in Dunedin [German]; and Max Hall from Mt Aspiring College in Wanaka [Spanish]. Angelina Rolston from Cromwell College, Cromwell [in absentia] won a prize for her entry in Russian as well as the inaugural Sustainability Award. Students gave strong statements about what really matters and those present at the awards ceremony reaffirmed that the future lies with our youth.