In the void of time, half-bird half-woman, Kurangaituku, tells the story of her extraordinary life – the birds who first sang her into being, the arrival of the first humans, the change they brought to her world, and her life with a young man, Hatupatu,whose betrayal led to her death. But death does not end a creature of imagination like the bird-woman. In the underworld, she hurtles through the realms of gods in pursuit of the love and revenge that eluded her in life. Kurangaituku is an award-winning novel from acclaimed indigenous author Whiti Hereaka. This daring work of literary fiction is layered with themes of feminism, identity, sexuality, colonialism and our relationship with the natural world. It is a contemporary retelling of a traditional Māori story, which is usually told from the perspective of the man, Hatupatu. But in this version, Hereaka has flipped the narrative examining the psyche of the traditional villain, the bird-woman, and commenting on the power of storytelling and who gets to shape the truth.
About the Author:
Whiti Hereaka is an award-winning Māori novelist and playwright based from New Zealand. She is an active participant in writing residencies both locally and internationally, including the Michael King Writers Centre and the prestigious International Writers Program in Iowa City.
Whiti has written four critically-acclaimed novels, The Graphologist’s Apprentice (2010), Bugs (2013), Legacy (2018) and Kurangaituku (2021). She also co-edited, with Witi Ihimaera, an anthology of Māori myths, Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold by Māori Writers (2019).
Her latest novel, Kurangaituku, won New Zealand’s richest literary award, the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, at the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Nominating Library’s Comments:
Kurangaituku takes readers on an immersive journey through deep time with its shape-shifting lead character. An exploration and reclamation of indigenous storytelling, it shows how language can create, shape, give life and destroy, with “one hundred lifetimes or more able to be lived by a single being.”
The world of Kurangaituku is visceral and sensual, and Hereaka’s flowing and hypnotic prose is made for reading aloud. Its looping narrative structure is seamlessly woven together with the book’s double-sided and interlocking format, reflecting the Māori worldview of the circularity of life and death, transfiguration and rebirth and allowing the story to be formed and reformed in the space between author and audience. A multi-dimensional and unforgettable book.
– Auckland Council Libraries
Kurangaituku is the retelling of a legend and so much more. It is about the power of our voices to tell our own story. It is about the importance of story to ourselves and to our culture, and the destructive nature of someone else telling or supplanting our story as part of colonisation. An amazing, thought-provoking, beautifully lyrical work. ‘Do you see what their stories have done?…They have made monsters of us both’.
– Christchurch City Libraries