'Indigenous Envoy': Witi Ihimaera embarking on international anniversary tour

By Kelvin McDonald
Photo / Dean Purcell / NZ Herald

Witi Ihimaera (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki) is embarking on an international anniversary tour talking about his books.

Earlier this month, the 79-year-old was a guest of the Brisbane Writers Festival, as he celebrates his 50th anniversary as a writer with a newly revised version of Tangi (1973). 

Towards the end of June, the 'indigenous envoy' as Ihimaera is being described in some circles will deliver a lecture in Aotearoa for the Friends of the Turnbull Library (FoTL) on 'The Māori writer as New Zealand practitioner and indigenous artisan'.

After the lecture, he will travel immediately to Sweden, Finland and Germany, where his book The Whale Rider is the 'big read' at Gutenberg University, a report on his FoTL lecture says.

The German university's students, teachers and administrative staff involved in the big read - who say they 'feel blessed' - have been 'getting into conversation' about the novel through a hybrid lecture series that began in April.  

Earlier this month, the university's reading the whale rider group shared a video message from Ihimaera in which he said they had done him "an amazing honour". 

"I'm truly honoured to have this chance to just say kia ora for now and I look forward to seeing you all when I come to Germany later in the year."

Ihimaera's anniversary tour will also take in the United States where he will guest star at a children’s book congress celebrating The Whale Rider, and in Canada in August he will attend the Presence Autochtone Film Festival, Montreal's First Peoples Festival, where his films are the subject of a retrospective.

He closes out his anniversary year with a month-long tour of France where four of his books are published and ends with a guest spot at the Tahiti writers festival, the FoTL report says.