A couple of months ago the Samoaobserver reported that Maualaivao Albert Wendt had been honored with one of New Zealand’s most prestigious arts award for his significant contribution to the arts and to the lives of New Zealanders.
Wendt received his award from the Governor General, Dame Patsy Reddy during a prestigious ceremony at Government House, Wellington. Arts Foundation Chair, Garth Gallaway, said “There are some artists who have a profound impact on the nation. The Icon Awards celebrates the achievements of those artists so that all New Zealanders can acknowledge our living greats and to learn more about their work and contributions”.
The 2018 recipients were selected by Arts Foundation Trustees and Governors. The recipients joined a living circle of twenty artists celebrated as Icons and received a medallion and pin designed by stone sculptor, John Edgar. The artist has the pin forever, while the medallion is presented to a successor at a future ceremony. Thirty-eight Icons have been honored with the award. Previously awarded recipients include Janet Frame, Margaret Mahy, Ralph Hotere and Sir Peter Jackson.
About Maualaivao Albert Wendt
Wendt was born into a Samoan family with German and English ancestry. After attending Ardmore Teacher’s College (1958–59) and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (M.A., 1964), he taught (1965–69) at Samoa College, a secondary school, and later became its principal (1969–73). In 1974 Wendt accepted a professorship at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, and three years later he established a branch of the university in Samoa, serving as a professor and administrator. He later became a professor at the University of Auckland (1988–2006) and held the Citizen’s Chair at the University of Hawaii (2004–08).
Wendt has been writing and publishing since the early 1960s and is recognized internationally as one of New Zealand’s, Samoa’s, and the Pacific’s major novelists, poets, and intellectuals.
Over the past forty years, his writing, his teaching and research have helped change how Samoa, the Pacific, and New Zealand are perceived. Wendt sought to counteract the frequently romanticized, often racist literature about Polynesians written by outsiders.
Wendt blends Polynesian history, myths, and other oral traditions with contemporary written fiction, unifying them with his unique vision. His fiction portrays the traditions and mores of the papalagi (people descended from Europeans) and depicts their effect on Samoan culture.
Congratulations to Maualaivao Albert Wendt!