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He Hokinga Mahara—Hemi Potatau (1991)

Today's book by Hemi Potatau of Ngāti Rakaipaka, a sub-tribe of Ngāti Kahungunu of Hawke’s Bay, was the first autobiography to be published in te reo Māori.

Publication details

Potatau, H. He Hokinga Mahara. Auckland: Longman Paul, 1991.

About the book

Author Hemi Potatau (1904-1994; Ngāti Kahungungu, Ngāti Rakaipaaka) was a Presbyterian minister, soldier and writer. Although baptised Anglican, Sister Edith Walker a Presbyterian missionary at Nuhaka took responsibility for him as a foster son. Potatau attended St Stephens Native Boys’ School and in 1920 with Sister Walker’s support he attended Scots College in Wellington. In 1925 he enrolled at the Theological Hall, Knox College, Dunedin to study for the Presbyterian ministry. From 1926 he also attended the University of Otago, but did not complete his degree, completing his study at Knox College in 1931.

During the 1960s Potatau went on to enrol at the University of Auckland to study Māori and Anthropology. He participated fully in Māori student life, taking part in protests and opposing the All Black tour of South Africa in 1970. After completing his BA at Victoria University of Wellington in 1972, Potatau assisted in setting up Māori language week.

In the 1980s he began writing his autobiography He Hokinga Mahara. It was submitted for the first Pegasus Prize for Māori literature in 1984 and was considered an outstanding entry. Published in 1991, Hokinga Mahara it the first autobiography to be published in Māori.

Further information 

  • Out of print


This publication is part of the series Te Takarangi: Celebrating Māori publications - a sample list of 150 non-fiction books produced by a partnership between Royal Society Te Apārangi and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.