April 04, 2016
Habib a chronicler of Maori life
Ngati Tuwharetoa are lamenting one of its most distinguished sons, Rowley Habib.
The trail-blazing writer has died at the age of 83.
Mr Habib grew up the timber mill settlement of Oruanui, near Taupo, the youngest son of a Lebanese father and a Maori mother.
He started writing while a boarder at Te Aute College, and dropped out of Ardmore Teachers College to write, supporting his dream with a string of jobs in timber mills, freezing works and hydroelectric dams that gave him raw material for stories.
From 1956 he published short stories, poems and articles in the Department of Maori Affairs’ quarterly magazine Te Ao Hou, Landfall, Arena and other journals.
He embraced theatre, and in 1976 formed Te Ika a Maui Players with Jim Moriarty, Tungia Baker, Keri Kaa, Rawiri Paratene and others to present his play about the sale of ancestral land, Death of the Land, at venues around the country.
He also broke ground on television, including writing the 1973 Maoritanga series Tihei Mauriora with Don Selwyn and Earle Spencer, adapting Death of the Land, and writing television dramas The Gathering and The Protesters.
Rowley Habib not only wrote it but lived it, being arrested with Eva Rickard during the 1978 occupation of Raglan Golf Course.
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