Genre-defying work wins 2020 Adam Foundation Prize

A genre-defying work that examiners describe as being “of great significance” has been awarded the IIML 2020 Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing.

Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Rangatahi, Tsawout First Nation, Coast Salish) is a takatāpui multimedia artist and writer. She wrote the winning manuscript, Tauhou, as part of her 2020 Master of Arts (MA) at the IIML, at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

“I want to thank the Adam Foundation for their incredible generosity—I am still in disbelief at my luck and circumstances,” says Kōtuku.

“For me, this award is an opportunity to rework my manuscript until it is fit for publication, which is such an invaluable gift. I’m still a little overwhelmed, but mostly I feel like my words have been heard and understood, and for that, I am endlessly grateful.”

Supported by Wellingtonians Verna Adam and the late Denis Adam through the Victoria University Foundation, the $3,000 Adam Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding student in the MA in Creative Writing programme.

The examiners praised Tauhou for its graceful, poetic and subversive telling of stories and moments that weave and connect between Aotearoa New Zealand and First Nations Canada.

Senior lecturer Emily Perkins, co-convenor of the MA at the IIML, says, “It was a privilege to see Kōtuku’s folio develop over the year—those in the workshop were always blown away by the beauty and resonance that ran through her work, and by the deep originality of her approach.”

Kōtuku’s supervisor and MA co-convenor, poet and essayist Anahera Gildea says, “Tauhou weaves intergenerational experience across time and place with a lyricism that allows the reader to span oceans and to experience the visceral reality of both climate change, and indigenous diaspora.

“Working alongside Kōtuku’s immense talent has been a privilege. Inumia, inumia, i ngā wai kaukau o ō tūpuna│Drink, drink of the bathing waters of your ancestors.”

Sydney University of Technology-based Gomeroi writer Alison Whittaker was an examiner for the thesis, and praises the folio highly, noting its “integrity, craft and poise”.

As well as completing her MA, this year Kōtuku edited Saltwater Love, a zine of Indigenous writing.

Previous Adam Foundation Prize recipients include authors Eleanor Catton, Ashleigh Young, Hera Lindsay Bird, Annaleese Jochems, and Tayi Tibble.