Author(s): Witi Ihimaera; Hemi Kelly
Both fiction and fact, this fascinating book is a kaleidoscopic exploration of the Battle of Orakau.
During three days in 1864, 300 Maori men, women and children fought an Imperial army and captured the imagination of the world. The battle marked the end of the Land Wars in the Waikato and resulted in vast tracts of land being confiscated for European settlement. Instead of following the usual standpoint of the victors, this book takes a Maori perspective. It is centred around Witi Ihimaera's moving novella, Sleeps Standing, which views the battle through the eyes of a 16-year-old boy named Moetu.
Alongside the novella are non-fiction narratives from Maori eyewitnesses, together with images and a Maori translation by Hemi Kelly, further giving voice to and illuminating the people who tried to protect their culture and land.
It is estimated that, at the height of the battle, 1700 immensely superior troops, well-armed and amply resourced, laid siege to the hastily constructed pa at Orakau. The defenders were heavily outnumbered with few supplies or weapons but, when told to submit, they replied-
'E hoa, ka whawhai tonu matou, ake, ake, ake!'
'Friend, I shall fight against you for ever, for ever!'
Witi Ihimaera is of Te Whanau a Kai, Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, Tuhoe, Te Whanau a Apanui and Ngati Porou descent. He was the first Maori to publish a novel, Tangi, in 1973. He has subsequently gone on to become one of New Zealand's leading writers. He is passionate about writing Maori stories and creating opportunities for them to be shown not only in print but also in theatre and on film. His memoir, Maori Boy, won the Ockham Award for the best non-fiction work, 2016. His play, All Our Sons, won six Wellington theatre awards and will be produced by the Auckland Theatre Company in 2018. He is currently writing the second volume of his memoir and other projects, including an opera, Flowing Water, which is set in the Waikato during the New Zealand Wars. He lives in Auckland.
Hemi Kelly is of Ngati Maniapoto descent. He is a full time lecturer in te reo Maori at the Auckland University of Technology and an assistant researcher at Te Ipukarea, the National Maori Language Institute. Alongside the Maori language, Hemi has a passion for waiata composition, writing, translation and Maori visual and performing arts. Hemi is a licensed translator and graduate of Te Panakiretanga o Te Reo, the Institute of Excellence in the Maori language. He is a highly regarded spokesperson on Maori culture and is often seen on Maori television.