Pounamu Pounamu is classic Ihimaera. First published in 1972, it was immediately endorsed by Maori and Pakeha alike for its original stories that showed how important Maori identity is for all New Zealanders. As Katherine Mansfield did in her first collection In a German Pension(1911), and Janet Frame in The Lagoon(1951), Witi Ihimaera explores in Pounamu Pounamu what it is like to be a New Zealander - but from a Maori perspective.
The seeds of Ihimaera's later works are first introduced in this ground-breaking collection- The Whale Rider in his story 'The Whale', The Rope of Man in 'Tangi', and the character of Simeon form Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies in 'One Summer Morning'; and the themes of aroha (love), whanaungatanga (kinship) and manaakitanga (supporting each other), which are so integral to Ihimaera's work.
Three-time winner of the Wattie/Montana Book of the Year award, Katherine Mansfield fellow, and playwright, Witi Ihimaera is one of New Zealand's most accomplished writers.
Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies won the Montana Book of the Year award in 1995. Ihimaera won the Wattie Book of the Year Award in 1974 and 1986 for Tangi and The Matriarch respectively. His other fiction titles include The Dream Swimmer (sequel to the award-winning The Matriarch); Pounamu, Pounamu; Whanau; The New Net Goes Fishing; The Whale Rider; Dear Miss Mansfield; Kingfisher Come Home; and Nights In The Gardens of Spain. Ihimaera has also edited a major five-volume collection of new Maori fiction and non-fiction, called the Te Aro Marama series. In 1993 Witi Ihimaera spent a year in France on the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship.
It is Witi Ihimaera's writing that also opened the door to his political career. When the then US Ambassador to New Zealand read a copy of Pounamu, Pounamu he passed it on to the Prime Minister of New Zealand at the time, Norman Kirk. At Mr Kirk's request, Witi Ihimaera joined the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and served as a diplomat in Canberra, New York and Washington. He is a respected commentator on Maori, Pacific and indigenous peoples' affairs.