Leading historian Dr Monty Soutar receives Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship to complete historical novel trilogy

Historian Dr Monty Soutar, ONZM (Ngati Porou, Ngati Awa, Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, Ngati Kahungunu) has been awarded the prestigious Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship. 

Dr Soutar will receive $100,000 towards the completion of Kāwai – a saga from the uttermost end of the Earth, a trilogy of historical novels that address the impact of colonisation in Aotearoa, each told from a Māori perspective.

“Kāwai, (lineage), is an epic historical adventure, based on New Zealand history, that brings the Māori experience of colonialism to national and global audiences. It lays bare the role of colonisation in shaping our country, but it also balances that with an honest appraisal of Aotearoa prior to European colonisation,” says Dr Soutar.

Inspired by true events, these historical fiction novels narrate the experiences of nine successive generations of one Māori family and describes pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial Aotearoa (c1728 – 2018). These creative interpretations of historical events are based on oral narratives and stories in whakapapa books, although the characters, ritual, religion and rhythms of daily life are real.

“I have been privileged in my life with access to guarded information and I see Kāwai as one way to repay the faith my elders had in me. I have an important story to tell and I think the trilogy has the very real potential to provide an education about New Zealand's history that textbooks in mainstream schools have missed,” he added.

As a first-year university student, Dr Soutar attended an address by the late Michael King. Admiring what Michael achieved in his lifetime, he feels fortunate to receive a fellowship that honours his memory.

Creative New Zealand’s Senior Manager, Arts Development Services, Cath Cardiff says, “We are thrilled to support this important kaupapa. As one of New Zealand’s leading historians, Dr Soutar will draw on years of research to complete this exciting, fiction trilogy that will inform and educate readers about the history of colonisation in Aotearoa. Michael King himself was also a popular New Zealand historian so it is fitting to have another historian awarded with this prestigious fellowship.”

Recently signed by publishers Bateman Books, Dr Soutar will publish the first completed book of the series in October 2021. This is set on the East Coast of the North Island in an Aotearoa untouched by Europeans. It begins with the birth of Rongo-i-te-kai, the ancestor to which his meeting house is dedicated, and finishes with the advent of Christianity (c1728―c1838). 

Books two and three cover everything, from inter-tribal musket warfare and land wars, to the effects of urbanisation, and more. The remaining two novels will be published in October 2022 and 2023.

Creative New Zealand’s Arts Practice Director, Literature, Malcolm Burgess says, “We look forward to the outcome of Dr Soutar’s bold, ambitious and timely project, which sets out to create compelling literature exploring precolonial, colonial and post-colonial history from a Māori viewpoint.”

Amongst many literary achievements, Dr Soutar has published two major research and publication projects; Nga Tama Toa: Price of Citizenship: C Company 28 (Maori) Battalion 1939-1945 and Whiti! Whiti! Whiti! E! Maori in the First World War. These projects have established his position as one of New Zealand’s leading historians. He has also made a significant contribution as a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and in the development of the Te Tai Whakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories Project at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. In 2015, the Te Reo Maori version of Dr Soutar's Nga Tama Toa was the supreme winner of the Ngā Tohu Reo Maori: Maori Language Awards and he was in tthe New Year’s Honours list as a member of the Order of New Zealand Merit ‘for services to Māori and historical research’ and named as ‘the foremost Māori scholar with respect to the study of warfare and Māori involvement in the World Wars.’

Established in 2003 and administered by Creative New Zealand, the Michael King Fellowship was renamed in recognition of the late Michael King for his contribution to literature and his role in advocating for a major fellowship for New Zealand writers.

The fellowship is available to established New Zealand authors of any literary genre with a significant publication record. It is offered biennially for writers working on a major project which will take two or more years to complete.

More about the Michael King Writer’s Fellowship

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Heather Byrne Senior Communications Adviser | Kaiārahi Matua Whakawhitiwhiti KōreroCreative New Zealand | Toi AotearoaM: +64 27 292 1589 | E: