Acclaimed Penguin Random House author Witi Ihimaera is among four New Zealanders who have been awarded France’s highest military and civil honour, Order of Arts and Letters.
At the awards ceremony, New Zealand Ambassador Jeanblanc-Risler commended Ihimaera, “For your pivotal role in bringing Maori storytelling to the forefront and enabling its international recognition as a taonga from New Zealand, the French government has decided to nominate you as a recipient of the Order of Arts and Letters.”
Ihimaera is the first Maori author to have been published in screenplays, poetry, short stories and has written a total of 15 novels. He is a three-time winner of the Wattie/Montana Book of the Year award, a Katherine Mansfield fellow, and playwright. Ihimaera is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and accomplished writers. His first novel, Tangi, won the Wattie Book of the Year Award in 1974, a feat he repeated with The Matriarch in 1986. His celebrated novel, Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies, now adapted as the film Mahana, won the Montana Book of the Year award in 1995. Witi’s other novels and short story collections include The Whale Rider (also adapted as an internationally successful film); Dream Swimmer (sequel to the award-winning The Matriarch); Pounamu, Pounamu and Nights In The Gardens of Spain. In 2015 he published the first volume of his autobiography, Maori Boy.