Ihimaera was born near Gisborne, a town in the east of New Zealand's North Island and is of Māori descent (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki) and Anglo-Saxon descent through his father, Tom. He attended Church College of New Zealand in Temple View, Hamilton, New Zealand. He was the first Māori writer to publish both a novel and a book of short stories. He began to work as a diplomat at the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1973, and served at various diplomatic posts in Canberra, New York, and Washington, D.C. Ihimaera remained at the Ministry until 1989, although his time there was broken by several fellowships at the University of Otago in 1975 and Victoria University of Wellington in 1982 (where he graduated with a BA). In 1990, he took up a position at the University of Auckland, where he became Professor, and Distinguished Creative Fellow in Māori Literature. He retired from this position in 2010.
In 2004, his nephew Gary Christie Lewis married Lady Davina Windsor, becoming the first Māori to marry into the British Royal Family.
Most of Ihimaera's work consists of short stories or novels. He has written a considerable number of stories, with the most notable being works such as Tangi, Pounamu, Pounamu, and The Whale Rider (the last of which became a film of the same name). His stories generally portray Māori culture in modern New Zealand. His work often focuses on problems within contemporary Māori society.
In 1995, Ihimaera published Nights in the Gardens of Spain, a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out. He had come out to himself in 1984 and began the work, but out of sensitivity to his daughters, did not finish or publish it then. Nights In The Gardens Of Spain was filmed in 2010 (Director; Katie Wolfe - run time 76-mins featuring Calvin Tuteao in the central role of 'Kawa' - see IMDB) with changes to the book, making the central character Maori rather than Pakeha (European) to more closely reflect Ihimaera's life. Making the main character in the book Pakeha was Ihimaera's way of keeping his personal experiences somewhat concealed. In an article in The Sunday Star Times (January 23, 2011) to coincide with the screening of the film on Television New Zealand (Sunday 23 January 2011 - TV 1, 8.30pm) Ihimaera was quoted as saying the change "was quite a shock to me because I had always tried to hide, to say this is a book that could be about 'everyman', this is not a specific story. So it (the film) is actually nearer to the truth than I would like to admit."
He was made a Distinguished Companion in the New Zealand Order of Merit (equivalent to a knighthood in the old honours system) in 2004 for services to literature.
Nights in the Gardens of Spain by Witi Ihimaera
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Raupo Publishing (NZ) Ltd; 3rd edition (January 17, 1995)
Amazon: Nights in the Gardens of Spain
David Munro has everything a man could want - a beautiful wife, two adoring daughters, a top academic position and a circle of devoted friends. But he also has another life, lived mainly at night and frequently in what he comes to know as 'The Gardens of Spain', the places where gay and bisexual men meet. Now he must choose which of these two lives to follow ...Now in its fourth edition, Nights in the Gardens of Spain takes us along the precarious divide between sexuality and social mores, exploring dilemmas of contemporary gay culture with anger, laughter, sensitivity and honesty.
More Spotlights at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Lists/Gay Novels
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