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  • Professor Witi Ihimaera Visits Peking University

    23/03/2017 - The New Zealand Centre of Peking University was honoured to welcome Professor Witi Ihimaera from the Unviersity of Auckland, a pioneer in Maori literature, who delivered a lecture titled “Writing the Polynesian World” to Peking University students and faculty who major in literature and translation.

    On 23 March, Professor Ihimaera visited Peking University and delivered a lecture titled “ Writing the Polynesian World”, accompanied by Ms Melissa Crawford, First Secretary (Political) and her colleague, Ms Rosemary An, Education Manager at the New Zealand Embassy in China. The New Zealand Centre Director Professor Liu Shusen hosted the talk.

    Professor Ihimaera greeting Professor Liu Shusen in the Māori tradition.

    Professor Ihimaera is of Maori and Anglo-Saxon descent. He attended Victoria University of Wellington, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts. Ihimaera has served as a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and as a professor at the University of Auckland. Most well-known is Witi Ihimaera’s contribution to New Zealand Maori literature and arts. He is the first published Māori novelist (‘Tangi’, 1973) and his works have gone on to be world-renowned and loved. Boasting 14 novels, 7 collections of short stories and other works for stage and screen to his credit, Ihimaera has been named as a Distinguished Companion in the New Zealand Order of Merit in the honour system for services to literature.

    Professor Ihimaera lecturing and engaging with the audience.

    In his engaging and thought-provoking talk, Ihimaera firstly addressed translation and explored the what, why, how and who in terms of translation. What literature are you intending to share? Why did you choose to work in translation? (Communication purposes? To protect and retain the DNA of your culture?) How are you going to translate the works? Who is your audience going to be?

    Witi Ihimaera then proceeded to discuss the difficulties in translation. Translating locality, history, mythology, and the people you represent requires a holistic approach. Furthermore, Witi Ihimaera bought to the audience’s attention the challenges in translating the buoyancy of Maori words to the dissimilar nature of English. He left us with an insight; that translation is an art, as it is not just about the words, but also the emotion and intelligence and history.

    Students flank Professor Ihimaera and NZC directors Professor Liu Shusen and Liu Hongzhong.

    For many, Witi Ihimaera’s talk is an eye-opening experience. The audience was entertained by his a traditional Maori welcome and farewell, and fascinated by the clips he played portraying his identity, the whale rider stage show and Maori culture. The audience was excited to know that Witi Ihimaera is currently developing a television series, a Polynesian Game of Thrones, set in the mythic Pacific. After his lecture, Professor Witi Ihimaera joined a welcome meeting where he was introduced to faculty members on world literature and comparative literature where enthusiastic talks and heated discussions have sparked brilliant ideas of future cooperation and promotion of Maori literature. Before his departure, Professor Witi Ihimaera generously gifted some of his works to the NZC library.

    If you are interested in visiting Peking University, please get in touch with our liaison officers to make arrangements. If your visit is for research purposes, visiting fellowships for New Zealand academics are held year-round at Peking University, across a broad range of departments, forming a significant contribution to the advancement of academic exchange between China and New Zealand.


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