Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Motunui Epa history book wins major Australasian prize

The 2023 Ernest Scott Prize has been awarded jointly to Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa) for Te Motunui Epa and Australian historian Alan Atkinson for Elizabeth and John: The Macarthurs of Elizabeth Farm

This significant prize is awarded annually to the most distinguished written contribution to the history of Australia or New Zealand, or to the history of colonisation.

On Te Motunui Epa, the judges said: ‘This beautiful book explores the journey of the Te Motunui Epa carved wooden panels across time, the meanings that have been attached to them, and the cultural continuity they represent.’

‘This book is partly a detective story, partly a public history, and also a crime narrative. Most importantly, this book demonstrates a deep engagement with a Te Ao Māori worldview and challenges orthodox views of perspective, voice and the narrative form itself.’

‘This book is an exemplar of modern history writing in Aotearoa New Zealand; it is also elegant and sophisticated and a cracking good read.’

On receiving the award, Ms Buchanan (pictured) said the book was about a taonga that was buried in the earth in Taranaki – “my turangawaewae” – but was written and researched on the unceded lands of the Bunurong and Wurundjeri Peoples.

“I have been a manuhiri here for a long time and I am deeply grateful for the sustenance and support I have received from the land I am fortunate to live on, this special place now known as Melbourne,” she said.

“My mentor, the Hon Mahara Okeroa, and I are humbled and delighted by the recognition of our work.”

Ms Buchanan is the third consecutive Bridget Williams Books author to share the prize, following from Hirini Kaa with Te Hāhi Mihinare in 2021 and Lucy Mackintosh with Shifting Grounds in 2022.

Following on from his Ockham Book Awards win, Ned Fletcher’s The English Text of the Treaty of Waitangi was shortlisted for the 2023 Ernest Scott prize, with the judges calling it ‘an important and substantial book … sure to become a landmark text in Treaty of Waitangi and international treaty scholarship.’

Read the full Ernest Scott Prize announcement and citations here.

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