Breaking the uncomfortable silence of the NZ Wars

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

For the first time ever, a bilingual Māori-English novel has been produced. Written by renowned author Witi Ihimaera and translated by AUT lecturer Hemi Kelly, Sleeps Standing Moetu is based at the time of NZ Wars and explores the Battle of Ōrākau through the eyes of 16-year old Moetu.

'Truly they are the offspring of Tiki,' he whispered, 'the heaven born sons of giants.'

Breaking the uncomfortable silence of the NZ Wars.

Hemi Kelly says, "This is a subject that doesn't really get spoken about so it's time to put these stories out for all to read and learn about."

This book is a historical fiction novel based on factual events surrounding that battle.

Hemi Kelly explains that, "Most of it is factual, although he's included fictional aspects to enrich the story and make it easier for readers to follow."

The Battle of Ōrākau took place in 1864 between government forces and a number of Māori tribes.

"Witi gleaned the accounts written by veterans of the battle of Ōrākau who told their stories after the battle. Those accounts are the foundation of this book," says Kelly.

He hopes other Māori will be inspired to follow suit.

"Witi deserves respect for putting our stories out there, Māori stories being told by Māori."

Many historical accounts claim that it was this battle where these famous words, "Ka whawhai tonu mātau, āke, āke", were said. 

Sleeps Standing Moetu is now available at bookstores throughout the country.