Introducing the First Curators for the Auckland Writers Festival 2024

Introducing the First Curators for the Auckland Writers Festival 2024

Published: Tuesday 30 January, 2024


We are thrilled to announce that writer and director Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) and poet and filmmaker Matariki Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) are joining us again as curators for the 2024 Auckland Writers Festival. Michael and Matariki bought an incredible energy to the 2023 Festival, their sessions ranging from demystifying the creative process to bringing collaborative music-making to the stage and highlighting young Māori voices and writers.

Matariki Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) is a 21 year old Poet and Filmmaker. She is a founding member of Ngā Hine Pūkōrero, a bilingual slam poetry team. Ngā Hine Pūkōrero are Aotearoa Spoken Word slam champions, Australasian Spoken Word slam champions, and in 2019 reached the final stages of the biggest youth poetry slam in the world, Brave New Voices in the United States. In 2021, Ngā Hine Pūkōrero were honoured with the Creative New Zealand Ngā Manu Pirere Award, recognising outstanding emerging Māori artists. Matariki’s poetry has been on display in the caretakers cottage for ‘Te Timatanga’ as part of Auckland Pride 2022, another poetry collaborative artwork with her siblings, ‘Guns’ was on display at Corbans Estate as part of the ‘Bodies of Woven Code’ exhibition. Matariki is currently writing her first book, a collection of poetry titled, ‘E kō, nō hea koe’ funded by Creative New Zealand.


Michael Bennett's (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) debut novel Better the Blood was shortlisted for the Fiction Award at the Ockhams 2023, and shortlisted for Best Novel and Best First Novel at the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2023. Michael won the Ngaio Marsh Non-Fiction award for In Dark Places, about Teina Pora's case. He won Best Director and Best Film at the NZTV awards for his adaptation of his book. Michael's second novel Return To Blood will be published May 2024.


Here is a message from Matariki and Michael ahead of their exciting ventures for our 2024 Festival.

Our theme as co-curators Māori for AWF 2023 was "He Ahi Kei Taku Korokoro – My Throat Holds Fire". It was a joy to bring together an amazing bonfire of creators with big important things burning in their throats, and we're thrilled to be working together again in 2024 to let more wonderful fires burn.


We are also thrilled to announce our third guest curator for 2024, Professor Damon Salesa. Damon is an interdisciplinary scholar focused on Oceania, deeply influenced by Indigenous Pacific cultures, particularly his own Samoan genealogy. He is an award-winning author, his most recent publication is An Indigenous Ocean: Pacific Essays which brings together two decades of award-winning scholarship, in a book that is set to become an international resource for those seeking to understand this vast ocean territory, Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Salesa locates Pacific peoples at the centre of their stories, grounding these histories in the detail and experiences of Indigenous life. The outcome is a book that makes a pivotal contribution to understanding the history and culture of Oceania.

Professor Salesa was educated in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and was the first Rhodes Scholar of Pacific descent at the University of Oxford from where he obtained his doctorate. He has held academic positions in New Zealand and the United States. Currently the Vice-Chancellor of the Auckland University of Technology, he was honoured as a Fellow of the Academy of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2021 for his outstanding contribution to Pacific Studies.

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