Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 16, 2019

Auckland Writers Festival: Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold

Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold took place in the Heartland Festival room, which is a bit like the Melbourne Festival’s Melba Spiegeltent.  It’s a most congenial venue, especially if you get there early like we did and enjoy a glass of bubbly at the cabaret-style seating with a table and comfortable velvet padded seating.

The event was an opportunity for readings from some of the Māori writers who contributed to the book Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold.  The readers were some that I knew: Tina Makereti (see my reviews of two of her novels); Paula Morris (see my review of Rangatira); and Nic Low (whose short story collection Arms Race was a giveaway for Indigenous Literature Week in 2014).  Other readers were Kelly Joseph, Regan Taylor and Whiti Hereaka, and the whole performance was accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Kingsley Melhuish who blended brass and percussion instruments with conch shells and other devices to create an atmospheric soundscape that was particularly effective for the first story which was based on a creation myth.

The stories were creative retellings with a modern twist.  Some of the vocab was a bit beyond us, because we’re not familiar with the names of characters in Māori myths and legends, particularly in the last story where a lot of Māori terms were used, and there was one featuring a troubled rugby player that was a bit difficult for those of us not interested in the sport.  But I liked the sly humour of the one about the creation of woman, and I also enjoyed the rather creepy one where the character’s whakapapa (genealogy) was automatically downloaded by an app at Border Security.  Not such a far-fetched idea in these nationalistic days, (and we’ve encountered some rather disconcerting nationalism in casual conversation with a couple of Kiwis who’ve gone out of their not-very-friendly way to let us know what they think of Australia.)


  1. Reblogged this on Travels with Tim and Lisa.


  2. Oh, I do love the sound of the cabaret seating for a reading event like this! Sounds great.


    • My local theatre (at the Kingston Arts Centre) does this sometimes for plays and musical events. When they repurposed the old Town Hall as an Arts Centre they made the spaces and fittings flexible so that the option is available. It’s really nice!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I know very little about the Maori culture. I’m sure it’s very interesting. Seating sounds lovely along with the bubbles. Sounds a lovely idea to go to NZ for a writer’s festival.


    • I’ve wanted to do it for such a long time: I couldn’t go when I was teaching because the festival was always on during term time, and then there was caring for my parents when we didn’t go anywhere for a few years. So yes, it’s nice to be here at last:)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for reporting on this great event.
    You seem to go EVERYWHERE.


    • LOL Carmel, you know I’ve never been to the Sydney Festival (because I won’t go to festivals that don’t do ticketed events that guarantee admission) or the Adelaide or Perth festivals because they’re in summer – too hot for me, alas!


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