Our 14th writer-in-residence, Atakohu (Ngāti Māhanga) is an Auckland-based journalist who has worked for national and international print media, including Mana magazine, the New Zealand Herald, the New Zealand Listener, the Sunday Star Times and, in England, the Guardian. She is now a part-time communications consultant and Māori-language news reporter for Radio Waatea. Atakohu holds a PhD in Māori journalism practise from AUT, and her doctoral dissertation was the basis of her forthcoming and first non-fiction book, Kia Hiwa Rā! Māori Journalism in Aotearoa New Zealand (Huia). Atakohu has written about the whakapapa of racism in Aotearoa for the recently released Penguin book Ngā Kupu Wero, edited by Witi Ihimaera.
Atakohu was not raised with te reo and started learning in earnest in her mid-30s. In 2017 her Māori name, meaning ‘morning mist’, was gifted to her by kura reo teacher Ngaringi Katipa, part of a process Middleton describes as ‘a reclamation of that which had been lost to our whānau: our reo, our iwitanga, our tuakiri Māori’. Around that time, she also began writing short fiction to extend her vocabulary, aware that there was little original fiction written in te reo for adults: “the small pool of Māori-language fiction writers need to focus on writing stories for children and teenagers”, she says. Her own kaupapa was to write stories employing narratives and language suitable for other adult learners.
The biennial, bilingual short-story competition Pikihuia, run by Te Waka Taki Kōrero The Māori Literature Trust, has been invaluable in encouraging Atakohu’s writing. Her stories have been published in the competition’s companion volumes Huia Short Stories 12 (2017) and 14 (2021). Her latest story, Te Pō Whakanui Huritau (The Birthday Party), about two brothers behaving badly on a hot summer night in Ponsonby, has been shortlisted for the 2023 Pikihuia Awards and will be published in Huia Short Stories 15 in October .