Channelling His Ancestors from Canada
New Zealand author Witi Ihimaera is currently in Alberta teaching eight indigenous Canadian writers at the globally respected arts, cultural, and educational institution, Banff Centre.
The last time he was there, he began writing what would eventually become Medicine Woman, a novella adapted for the screen as White Lies, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in mid-September.
And now he’s doing research for a new novella, which will involve studying the importance of natural springs to tribes in Alberta.
“In listening to the stories here, I will be able to channel my own Maori ancestors and write a novella,” Ihimaera says with a laugh. “I’m going to call it The Spring. But it will be set in New Zealand.”
Ihimaera also joined Cree playwright Tomson Highway for an evening of storytelling and dialogue at the Banff Centre. The evening focused on how the histories and cultures of the two countries mirror each other in many ways, starting with the troubled story of how white people first made contact with indigenous cultures in New Zealand and Canada.
Ihimaera is executive producer for an upcoming adaptation of his 1994 novel, Bulibashba: King of the Gypsies with acclaimed New Zealand director Lee Tamahori at the helm.
Ihimaera was born in Gisborne in 1944. He was the first Maori writer to publish both a novel and a book of short stories.