Paula Morris: Our Māori writers are free to write whatever they want
I suppose there’s the question of what constitutes a Māori story. And whether a Pākehā can write a Māori story.
Generally, when I talk about Māori literature, I’m talking about writers who are Māori. To me, if you’re a Māori writer, you’re part of Māori literature — no matter what you’re writing. Overseas, people understand that. If Ernest Hemingway is writing a book in Spain — he’s still an American writer. If Graham Greene is writing a book set in Haiti or Cuba — he’s still a British writer.
Here, sometimes I think that, because our literature is younger and a bit more anxious, we worry about who’s in and who’s out. I do think really good Pākehā writers can write a Māori story if they really understand what they’re writing — and if they have the empathy, imagination, and skills, and if they’ve done their research. Then, yes. Absolutely.
And, of course, Māori writers can write about whatever the hell they want to. So Kelly Ana Morey can write about a racehorse in a book largely set in Australia — and still be part of Māori literature because she is a Māori writer. Our national literature is like other art. It’s to do with the painters or the sculptors themselves. It’s not to do with the actual work having to fit a particular theme or subject.
Full interview here