29 Jun 2015

Hinemoana Baker awarded Berlin residency

11:50 am on 29 June 2015

Well-known Māori writer Hinemoana Baker has been given the opportunity to explore her whakapapa in Germany and write poetry about it.

Hinemoana Baker

Hinemoana Baker Photo: RNZ / Nick Butcher

Hinemoana Baker, of Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa and Te Āti Awa descent, has been awarded Creative New Zealand's Berlin Writer's Residency.

The residency, worth more than $40,000, gives Ms Baker accommodation in a Creative New Zealand apartment in Berlin for 11 months to work on a writing project.

She will work on a new collection of poetry and attend poetry events in Poland and Belarus.

Ms Baker said she was looking forward to learning more about her ancestry during her time in Europe.

Her mother's side of the whānau arrived in Aotearoa from Bavaria in the mid-19th century, and she said the residency would give her the chance to learn more about her ancestry, or tūpuna.

"My mother's ancestors arrived in New Zealand on the St Pauli from Oberammergau, Bavaria, via Hamburg. Living in Germany would allow me to further investigate these whakapapa connections and write into them," she said.

"I'll be learning the language too, so it's another journey - into learning the language of your ancestors."

While Ms Baker has a long list of achievements, she said she had not been expecting to be awarded the residency.

Her poetry, fiction and children's stories have appeared in a series of publications, including the literary journal Sport, the anthology of Māori writing Te Ao Mārama, online literary journal Turbine, the School Journal and in Best New Zealand Poems.

She was also Arts Queensland Poet in Residence in 2009 and writer in residence with the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa in 2010.

She said it was not the first time she had applied for the Berlin residency.

"It's a lesson in persistence more than anything else I think, that you just have to keep putting your hat in the ring and then hopefully it'll roll around.

"I have been to Berlin once and I absolutely loved it, but I just didn't think I'd get this opportunity," she said.

Creative New Zealand's chief executive Stephen Wainwright said the project would help build awareness of New Zealand literature in Berlin.

"Along with dedicated space and time to devote to an approved project, this residency has enabled some of our finest writers to experience the culture of this inspirational city and develop their work in a new environment," he said.

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