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Winner of the inaugural Keri Hulme Award, essa may ranapiri. Photo by Stephen Olsen.
Winner of the inaugural Keri Hulme Award, essa may ranapiri. Photo by Stephen Olsen.

BooksOctober 30, 2023

essa may ranapiri wins inaugural Keri Hulme Award (+ all the other prize winners)

Winner of the inaugural Keri Hulme Award, essa may ranapiri. Photo by Stephen Olsen.
Winner of the inaugural Keri Hulme Award, essa may ranapiri. Photo by Stephen Olsen.

A report on the 15th biennial Pikihuia Awards: a celebration of Māori writers.

Oh! The Love & The Pain

for Keri Hulme after their poem ‘Aue te aroha me te mamae’

the sun is sleepwalking through a quiet day e kare
the warm sea massages clay back onto the cliffs e kare
it looks like the world is building itself up to something
the waves e kare hang the kelp around their necks
crabs empty their shells of food before finding
a place they call home
a gull unbreaks its neck in the churn of the currents
comes back alive squawking
e kare

the sea and the land passing lives between themselves like little gifts
in the turbulence
e kare

by essa may ranapiri

​​Poet essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa, Highgate, Na Guinnich) has won the inaugural Keri Hulme Award at the Pikihuia Awards held in Wellington on Saturday night. The award comes with a cash prize of $5,000 which was raised from the sale of the original manuscript of Hulme’s Booker Prize-winning novel the bone people. 

“I would like to think my curls contributed to me winning this award,” said ranapiri. “Jokes aside, Hulme’s writing means the world to me and to be a part of her legacy in this way is humbling beyond anything. This uri takataapui has been crying nonstop.”

ranapiri has long been considered one of Aotearoa’s most exciting contemporary writers and was also awarded the Janet Frame Poetry Prize in August this year. In an article rounding up a series of reflections on ranapiri’s particular gifts (published on The Spinoff in 2022), writer Sascha Stronach said that “ranapiri is a moving target, dancing between tongues, codes, tones, keys, and mythologies. Kupu should fail, in less-certain hands they’d shatter, but ranapiri is a beast of the margin, wry and mournful, playful and dignified, an artist of the unsaid and unsayable.”

On ranapiri’s honour last night, publicist at Te Herenga Waka University Press, and fellow poet, Tayi Tibble said: “I’m super stoked for essa — as their publicist but also as their e hoa. I met essa when we studied together at the IIML. They were a big influence on me at the time and since then, their work has continuously challenged, excited and inspired me. I’m very proud of them. They are absolutely deserving of this recognition.”

essa may ranapiri accepting their award from Marian Evans (from Spiral Collective who first published the bone people); and Kate Salmons, one of Keri Hulme’s whānau who gifted the award. Photo by Stephen Olsen.

Robyn Bargh, chair of the Māori Literature Trust Te Waka Taki Korero, and judge of the award with writer, Nic Low, said, “I am thrilled to present the inaugural Keri Hulme award to essa may ranapiri, a poet whose vivid, introspective and powerful voice evokes many qualities shared with Keri herself. With the support of Keri Hulme’s whānau, we are able to celebrate her legacy through this award – a legacy that continues to shape and inspire the aspirations of Māori writers today.”

Other writers honoured in the Pikihuia awards include Nadine Anne Hura, for her non-fiction in English essay ‘A Dangerous Country’ which the judges called “a poignant piece that explores the complex relationship between whakapapa, colonisation, intergenerational trauma and the experience of being Māori.”

Zeb Tamihana Nicklin won the non-fiction in te reo Māori award for ‘Tin Canning’, a story based in Ngaio, Te Pūtere, that the judges said was a “captivating – and perhaps cautionary – tale of motorbike riding and guardianship. Intriguing and even perplexing at times, Tin Canning is evocative and showcases Zeb’s strong writing abilities.”

In a(nother) very strong year for short stories, Jacob McGregor won the reo Māori category for ‘Te Koha Tūmatarau’ which features “elements of climate change, the gods and supernatural beings. With tūrehu, patupaiarehe and forest, volcano and sea nymphs”; while  Anthony Pita won the English category with his story ‘kintsugi with the colour pink’, set in Japan and Aotearoa.   

A poem about receiving moko won the Poetry in te reo Māori category: Aperahama Hurihanganui’s ‘He Hoa Mauroa’ is about the “spiritual and physical pain of receiving Mataora: the buzzing of the needle, and the wave of memories and experiences that have brought this father to his moko journey”.

Shelley Burne-Field, known for her evocative short stories, won the poetry in English category with ‘Another Brown Face’, which “expertly intertwines humour with raw sensitivity and delicacy. Her work is profound and affords a sense of insight into sincere notions of identity.”

Left: Aperahama Hurihanginui, winner of poetry in te reo Māori; and right, Nadine Anne Hura, winner of non-fiction in English. Photo by Stephen Olsen.

All winners received $2,000 and were judged by Hēmi Kelly, Robert Sullivan, Mike Ross, Emma Wehipeihana, Maiki Sherman and Carol Hirschfeld. Wehipeihana noted that it “is apparent that kaituhi Māori continue to engage with this medium to explore personal and intergenerational trauma, inflicted by the experience of colonisation. The writers who focused on these issues had a nuanced and historically informed perspective, which was illustrated in their empathy for the experiences that shape us, the people who hurt us, but who have been hurt themselves.”

The awards also highlighted that original writing in te reo Māori is going from strength to strength. Maiki Sherman, judge of the non-fiction in te reo Māori category, acknowledged the enduring quality and creativity of the entries. “I rewa te ngākau i te kounga o ngā pakiwaitara reo Māori i tēnei o ngā whakataetae. Ko te auahatanga o te whakaaro e pakari ana, waihoki, kua poua ki te mātauranga Māori. Nā reira i tino eke ai ngā toa whakaihuwaka ki taumata tiketike. Ko ēnei tuhituhinga, ka titia ki te whatumanawa, otirā, ka maharatia e te kaipānui mō te wā roa.”

All winners and highly commended writers for the 2023 Pikihuia Awards are:

The Keri Hulme Award, judged by Robyn Bargh and Nic Lowe and sponsored by the Keri Hulme whānau

Winner: essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa, Highgate, Na Guinnich)

Finalists: Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa) and Monty Soutar (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Kahungunu)

Poetry in te reo Māori, judged by Hēmi Kelly and sponsored by Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori

Winner: Hei Hoa Mauro by Aperahama Hurihanganui (Te Arawa, Te Tai Rāwhiti, Wairarapa)

Highly commended: Mā te roa ka aha by Winara Levi (Ngāti Hauā, Waikato, Ngāpuhi, Raukawa, Te Arawa, Sāmoa) nāwai, nāwai by Rauhina Scott-Fyfe (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha)

Poetry in English, judged by Robert Sullivan and sponsored by Wellington City Council

Winner: Another brown face by Shelley Burne-Field (Ngāti Mutunga Ngāti Rārua, Sāmoa)

Highly commended: you begin to see by Miriama Gemmell (Ngāti Pāhauwera, Ngāti Kahugnunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāti Rakaipaaka); te karu o te whenua / amphibian by Ana Maria King (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato)

Non-fiction in te reo Māori, judged by Mike Ross and sponsored by Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori

Winner: Tin Canning by Zeb Tamihana Nicklin (Pāhauwera, Ngā Tokorima a Hinemanuhiri, Ruapani, Tūhoe, Tāmanuhiri, Rangitāne)

Highly commended: Nō Pātea Ahau by Airana Ueroa Ngarewa (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Ngāruahine)

Non-fiction in English, judged by Emma Wehipeihana and sponsored by Wellington City Council

Winner: A Dangerous Country by Nadine Anne Hura (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi)

Highly commended: Zion and the Three Cancers by Eru J Hart (Ngāti Kahungunu); What Do We Do about David Ballantyne? by Jordan Tricklebank (Ngāti Maniapoto)

Short fiction in te reo Māori, judged by Maiki Sherman and sponsored by Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori

Winner: Te Koha Tūmatarau by Jacob McGregor (Ngāti Raukawa te Au ki te Tonga, Ngā Rauru Kītahi, Te Whānau-a-Apanui)

Highly commended: Ko te pō whakanui huritau by Atakohu Middleton (Ngāti Māhanga); Ko Pare te Pūkeko Nanakia by Pine Tamahori Campbell (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa)

Short fiction in English, judged by Carol Hirschfeld and sponsored by Wellington City Council

Winner: kintsugi with the colour pink by Anthony Pita (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Ranginui)

Highly commended: Awa by Sarah McOnie (Ngāti Maniapoto, Kāi Tahu); Affidavit in the Family Court: Ranginui vs Papatūānuku (Letter to the Climate) by Nadine Anne Hura (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi)

The 27 finalists from the awards have been published in Huia Short Stories 15 (Huia Publishers, $25, available in book stores soon), which was launched at the awards ceremony.

The Pikihuia Awards are organised by Māori Literature Trust – Te Waka Taki Kōrero and are made possible with the unwavering support of founding partners Creative New Zealand and Huia Publishers.

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