Darkness, mātauranga and manu: recent New Zealand non-fiction

As the moths rise up when the sun goes down, nectar rises in the flowers of the plants that will be pollinated by them. Tainui, tarata and raupeka/Easter orchid respond to the onset of darkness by flooding their flowers with sweet strong perfumes…

Annette Lees, After Dark (p.14)

The days are getting longer, the kihikihi-wawā (chorus cicadas) are starting to emerge, and the nights are clear and filled with whetū (stars) ― i tēnei marama we’ve collected a bunch of pukapuka hou (new books) to take you into raumati (summer)!

Watercolour botanical study of tarata in blossom, with sprays of tiny white flowers.
The heavily perfumed tarata (lemonwood); watercolour by Sarah Featon c.1885, collection of Te Papa

First up is Annette Lees’ love letter to the night, After Dark: walking into the nights of Aotearoa. Mixing social history, science and memoir, this pukapuka is structured according to different hours of the night, starting at dusk and finishing just as the sky begins to lighten, at the break of day.

While Lees chronicles a relationship with the night, historian Lucy Mackintosh explores a connection to place in Shifting grounds: deep histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, in particular Pukekawa/Auckland Domain, Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill and the Ōtuataua Stonefields at Ihumātao.

Another recent pukapuka is the very timely He pou hiringa: grounding science and technology in Te Ao Māori, edited by Maria Amoamo, Merata Kawharu, and Katharina Rukstuhl. There are lots of ways to engage with and produce scientific knowledge, and the researchers and scientists who’ve contributed to Te pou hiringa are firmly anchored in mātauranga and Te Ao Māori. Ka mau te wehi! Oh, and it’s also the perfect size for taking on a trip to the awa or moana. 

If you’re looking for some lavishly illustrated pukapuka you likely can’t go wrong with Cover Story by Steve Braunias or Ray Ching’s New Zealand bird paintings. The former is a wild ride through Aotearoa’s history of amazing album covers (it’s even LP sized!!) while the latter will refresh your karu (eyes) with Ching’s lovingly painted manu. Sadly, we’re assuming the pekapeka-tou-roa won’t be included.

We’re also excited for the landmark publication Hei taonga ma nga uri whakatipu: treasures for the rising generation, about the expeditions initiated by Sir Apirana Ngata to record tikanga and taonga from around Te Ika-a-Māui. For more treasures from across the motu, Te Kupenga was published to mark the centenary of the Alexander Turnbull Library and looks at the history of Aotearoa through 100 objects. Last but certainly not least, Vincent O’Malley’s Voices from the New Zealand Wars brings this conflict to life through the words of those witnessed it.

Kia pai tāu pānui happy reading!

Image from Mighty ApeAfter dark : walking into the nights of Aotearoa / Lees, Annette
“Every 24 hours, the Earth rolls into its own vast shadow and darkness floods across the land and sea. In a 1600-kilometre-long gliding plumb-line down the length of New Zealand, our beaches, towns, cities, farms, forests, lakes and mountains sink into shadow. Annette Lees takes us walking into the night of Aotearoa that follows. In the company of bats, owls, moths, singing crickets and seabirds, After Dark guides us from dusk to dawn through a rich and fascinating trove of night stories.” (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Shifting grounds : deep histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland / Mackintosh, Lucy
“Both natural and human histories have been woven together over hundreds of years in places across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, forming potent sites of national significance. Approaching landscapes as an archive, Mackintosh delves deeply into specific places, allowing us to understand histories that have not been written into books or inscribed upon memorials.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Image from Bridget Williams BooksHe pou hiringa : grounding science and technology in Te Ao Māori / ed. Maria Amoamo et al.
Māori have a long history of innovation based on mātauranga and tikanga, the knowledge and values passed down from ancestors. Yet Western science has routinely failed to acknowledge the contribution of Indigenous peoples and their vital worldviews. This book raises two important questions: what contribution can mātauranga make to addressing grand challenges facing New Zealand and the world? And in turn, how can Western science and technology contribute to the wellbeing of Māori people and lands?” (Adapted from catalogue)

Image from Mighty ApeCover story : 100 beautiful, strange and frankly incredible New Zealand LP covers. Volume 1 / Braunias, Steve
“From 1957-87 the LP was king of New Zealand music and this book showcases 100 of the best examples of cover art at full LP size. Braunias brings his inimitable wit and empathy to bear on the artistic flair, fashion and occasional gaudiness these album covers represent. Based on interviews and his own experience collecting over 800 albums from op-shops, he reflects on what they say about our popular culture.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Image from FishpondRay Ching : New Zealand bird paintings / Harris-Ching, Raymond
“Ray Ching is internationally recognised as one of the world’s greatest living wildlife artists. Born in New Zealand, he has spent the majority of his career in England. But he has never lost his interest in his roots or the New Zealand birds that inspired him. Over the last 60 years, he has built up a remarkable collection of paintings of our wildlife.” (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Hei taonga ma nga uri whakatipu : treasures for the rising generation : The Dominion Museum ethnological expeditions, 1919-1923 / Wayne Ngata et al.
“From 1919 to 1923, at Sir Apirana Ngata’s initiative, a team from the Dominion Museum travelled to tribal areas across Te Ika-a-Māui The North Island to record tikanga Māori that Ngata feared might be disappearing. These ethnographic expeditions were the first in the world to be inspired and guided by indigenous leaders, recording fishing techniques, art forms, ancestral rituals and everyday life.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Te kupenga : 101 stories of Aotearoa from the Turnbull
“Published to mark 100 years since the establishment of the famous Alexander Turnbull Library, this energetic, comprehensive book approaches the history of Aotearoa New Zealand through 101 remarkable objects. Each tells a story, be it of discovery, courage, dispossession, conflict, invention, creation, or conservation. The objects range from letters and paintings to journals, photographs, posters, banners and books.” (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Voices from the New Zealand wars = he reo nō ngā pakanga o Aotearoa / O’Malley, Vincent
This book takes us to the heart of the New Zealand wars with a series of first-hand accounts from Māori and Pākehā who either fought in or witnessed the wars that ravaged New Zealand between 1845 and 1872. From Heni Te Kiri Karamu’s narrative of her remarkable exploits as a wahine toa, through to accounts from the field by British soldiers and powerful reports by observers on both sides, we learn about the wars at a human level.” (Adapted from catalogue)

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