Telling our own stories

18:36, Nov 12 2012

Submerging herself in literature from other lands got publisher Robyn Bargh thinking about New Zealand's own authentic voice.

"I thought, wouldn't it be great if we had New Zealand literature that captured the essence of small Maori communities like the ones I grew up in?" Robyn, originally from Horohoro, south of Rotorua, says.

"I was reading overseas literature that did that, like from India and South Africa . . . you could feel the wind in the trees and smell the curries."

In response to that need to find Maori stories that tickled the senses and touched her heart, Robyn set up Huia Publishing.

Tomorrow night, in the first of the Ngati Mutunga Speaker Series, Robyn will tell her own publishing story, which began 21 years ago.

Since then Huia has tried to find and develop Maori authors, editors and also te reo writers and editors. "Over time we have grown a whole pool of these people and we are still doing that," she says.

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Robyn, a trained primary school teacher of Te Arawa descent, says it wasn't easy in the beginning.

"When I first started, people treated me in a pretty patronising way. They'd say, 'see how you go'."

Not now. As well as being co- owner of Huia Publishing with husband Brian, Robyn is also a councillor on the Publishers Association of New Zealand.

Since 1991, Huia Publishing has released well over 100 commercial titles and also produces 30 to 50 educational resources in Maori language each year.

In September, it partnered with Puke Ariki to publish Flashback: Tales and Treasures of Taranaki by Andrew Moffat.

"It's one of our very successful relationships," Robyn says.

She is thrilled to be speaking at Puke Ariki at 6pm tomorrow, because it's a place she loves to visit.

Puke Ariki acting manager Kelvin Day says the speaker series is all about relationships.

"We have been working with Ngati Mutunga for many, many years," he says, highlighting last summer's successful exhibition, Mutunga: Our Legacy, Our Challenge, Our Future.

"It's about keeping this important relationship going."

Paul Cummings, chief executive of Te Runanga o Ngati Mutunga, says the speaker series was a popular part of the exhibition so the iwi organisation decided to continue it.

The other speakers in the series are Kapuaiwaho Waretini, winner of this year's Sir Peter Blake award for leadership and ability to bring people together (November 21, 6pm) and Maori Trustee Jamie Tuuta (November 24, 2pm).

Taranaki Daily News