New horizons for award-winning 'Imagining Decolonisation' authors

7:55 pm on 1 October 2021

The authors of Imagining Decolonisation - which has been jointly awarded the 'Booksellers' Choice Award' at the 2021 Aotearoa Book Industry Awards - say the writing of the book reflected how the task was somehting everybody needs to do together.

The authors of Imagining Decolonisation at Unity Books in Wellington in April. Mike Ross, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Jennie Smeaton, Rebecca Kiddle, Moana Jackson, Amanda Thomas, Bianca Elkington.

The authors of Imagining Decolonisation at Unity Books in Wellington in April. Mike Ross, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Jennie Smeaton, Rebecca Kiddle, Moana Jackson, Amanda Thomas, Bianca Elkington. Photo: Supplied

The BWB text was described as seeking to "demystify decolonisation", a concept involving the unwinding of colonial systems within society and a shift towards a partnership with indigenous people and communities.

It shared the Booksellers' Choice Award with the novel 'Aue', written by author Becky Manawatu.

The book was co-authored by a number of academics, iwi representatives and environmentalists including Bianca Elkington, Moana Jackson, Rebecca Kiddle, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Mike Ross, Jennie Smeaton & Amanda Thomas.

The aspirations for the book were to look at the ways that places and cities could transform to become more reflective of Aotearoa's unique character and cultures and recognize manawhenua.

Dr Ocean Mercier said the authors hadn't seen any type of briefing paper or framework that talked about what decolonisation was and how to include it within places and cities.

She said this inspired them to create a resource that wasn't so academic but instead more about communities.

"This idea of decolonisation kept coming up but you need to do that first before you try to indigenise or re-indigenise something"

"We felt like we needed to do a bit of a translation of this concept decolonisation for teenagers, for 85 year olds, for who have never really had a Māori friend in their life, just a sort of ordinary person on the street"

Imagining Decolonisation drew from the stories and experiences of real people within the community both Māori and non-Māori to source research for the book.

Moreso it is directed at rangatahi, young people who are the incoming generation.

Bianca Elkington from Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira has worked closely with rangatahi groups through her role with the rūnanaga, especially within education and career pathways.

The writing process for the book was about including the experiences of people within society today and painting a real life picture.

Elkington said the text helped her to understand her own colonial experiences within education and finding ways to decolonise this area.

But it also examines how every sector in our society and government also can do more to realize the impact colonisation has had on Māori especially.

"The imagining decolonisation journey started about 4 years ago and that was through Dr Rebecca Kiddle and her work at Victoria University

"It's such an important kaupapa because we only need to look at the statistics for our people to see that the current systems we are exposed and have to live with at the moment don't work."

She said it was about talking with rangatahi at the rūnanga with the hopes that they too would be able to recognise what impact colonial environments had on them.

For Elkington it was about changing the current systems and creating environments where kids could be who they are.

"My particular involvment was around supporting our rangatahi to broaden their vision in terms of how and where they live and how that reflects them as Māori"

"Some cities we go into, we wouldn't know we were in Aotearoa and that's where can start, city by city and break that down into community, every part plays an important role in being able to start that process of decolonising."

Mercier said Imagining Decolonisation is about re-making the look and feel of our surrounding places.

For her working with the other authors was an experience of learning and enjoyment.

She said these conversations don't have to be too confronting and the book aims to make the concept accessible to everyone.

"So the process of writing was amazing but then to see people's writing and to see their stories and anecdotes was also like 'man we are so in this together', it was really reaffirming"

"We have to have lots of different ideas and people from different backgrounds on board, Māori, pākeha, manawhenua"

"This book mirrors what we have to do in the real world- we have to do it together"

Since it was first published in March 2020 Imagining Decolonisation has been reprinted four times and has received vast readership and reviews across Aotearoa.

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