About this project


From the Preface

From time immemorial over fifty distinct Māori iwi/tribal groups have communicated and celebrated tribal histories, legends, landmarks, sacred places, revered ancestors and remembered the triumphs, battles and victories. The vicissitudes of 19th century colonisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand by the British, the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and its broken promises, the land abuses and corruptions of justice have not extinguished that underlying spark, life-force, creative impetus, and tenacity to survive of the Māori, nor silenced the voice of story telling. At the close of the 20th century there is a profusion of expressions of Māori story-telling, both oral and written and in both Māori and English.

The idea of compiling a bibliography of Māori writers emerged in the early 1990s while I was studying New Zealand literature at the University of Canterbury. The bibliography comes out of the contemporary revisionist tradition which was pioneered by feminist scholars in the 1970s when they began to question the politics of inclusion and exclusion in the literary canons. M. H. Abrams states that the term literary canon denotes 'those authors whose works, by a cumulative consensus of authoritative critics and scholars, as well as by their conspicuous and continued influence on later authors, have come to be widely recognised as "major."' It is these 'canonical writers' who are 'most frequently and fully treated by literary critics and historians, and most likely to be included in anthologies and courses with titles such as "World Masterpieces,"...' Feminists argue that the construction of traditional literary canons has been overwhelmingly imbued with patriarchal and Eurocentric biases which have excluded numerous women writers from the canons. Abrams writes, "The general charge is that the standard literary canon has been deeply biased toward writers who are white, male, and Anglo-Saxon, and who aim their works toward an elite audience dominated by a white, male, and middle-class ideology and literary sensibility.' To correct these imbalances scholars in the last two decades have been in the process of revisiting the literary canons and histories, exposing the biases and rewriting the histories. What has been discovered about the suppression of women writers can equally be said about indigenous writers and specifically Māori writers. This bibliography is part of a movement to reclaim the Māori literary tradition, which has a well-documented history of being marginalised by academics, literary editors, commentators, and publishers.

Bridget Underhill


Over the last 25 years many people have contributed to the creation and compilation of Kōmako. The first people I want to thank and celebrate are the Māori writers whose names and published works are listed in this bibliography – writers whose work continues to inspire, enthral and stretch the boundaries of traditional and contemporary media. I also want to thank their whanau for their support too.

The project would not have been possible without the vision and encouragement of the founding members of Te Ha – the Māori writers committee of Toi Māori Aotearoa and particularly the long term support of Patricia Grace, Charles Royal, James George, Robert Sullivan, Powhiri Rika-Heke, Chris Szekely and many others. Toi Māori Aotearoa has been wonderfully supportive over the years.

In the two stages of the Kōmako journey: the research, compilation and completion of the bibliography towards a PhD from 1992-1998; and the subsequent updating and digitizing of the bibliography to create the website from 2003-to the present; I want to thank all the colleagues and friends who have contributed: my wonderful PhD supervisors Professor Patrick Evans and Rose Parker for their excellent support; for the encouragement of Professor Paul Millar and Dr John Newton and the many friends who helped at the conclusion of the PhD submission.

In the second stage of this project Dr Christopher Thomson has been the website developer and key collaborator working on the whole digitisation process and I’m so grateful for the hours, weeks and months he has given to research and orchestrate how the database and website functions. More recently we have been very grateful for the support of Associate Professor Jeanette King giving invaluable advice and input, and Tiana Ratana for her many hours updating and editing as an intern.

The photographic image of the kōmako seen throughout the site is copyright to Brian M. Harmer and is used with permission.

I am very grateful for the funding from University of Canterbury College of Arts and the Rata Foundation.

Technical details

The technical challenge of this project has been creating a database and website from semi-structured bibliographic entries and other text composed using Microsoft Word. Fortunately, MS Word text styles were applied in the original .doc file and these were used to extract an XML representation of the document. The tool used for this initial work was OxGarage, a web service proviced by the University of Oxford. The P5 TEI output from OxGarage was imported into OpenRefine, and converted into tabular form. OpenRefine was then used extensively to tidy, re-organise and augment the bibilographical and biographical data.

Once suitably prepared, the data was imported into a MariaDB database for analysis and use in this website. The website was built using Python, the Flask web framework, and the Whoosh search library. We would like to thank Han Li and Rosalee Jenkin for their help with the site's design, and Dave Ewing and Brendon Wyber for providing technical support.