New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera and World War II veterans receive French honours at Auckland Bastille Day celebration [fr]
France has honoured outstanding individuals in New Zealand whose courage and creativity illustrate of the French Republic’s values at a ceremony in Auckland ahead of France’s national day.
Awarding Witi Ihimaera the Order of Arts and Letters at the Auckland Art Gallery on Thursday night, French Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler said the distinction was “an official acknowledgement from the French government for your career as a trailblazer in Maori literature and screenwriting. “Journalist, diplomat, producer, editor, academic; you’ve had many lives, but storytelling has always been at the core of what you do".
“Your books and their screen adaptations, from The Whale Rider to Mahana, have been immensely successful. Your works and reflections have made a key contribution to indigenous worldviews, enabling Maori culture, customs and legacy to be discovered and enjoyed by thousands in New Zealand and overseas. Several of your books have been translated into French. In 1993 you stayed for a few months in Menton as recipient of the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship. In 2015, you were guest of honour of the Oceania Festival in Rochefort and of the Salon du livre océanien in Nouméa.
“For these reasons, and for your pivotal role in bringing Maori storytelling to the forefront and enabling its international recognition as a taonga from New Zealand, the French government has decided to nominate you as a recipient of the Order of Arts and Letters.”
Frank Sanft, John Macvicar and Harold Beven received the Legion of Honour, France’s highest order of merit, as a recognition of their role during WWII.
“This medal recognizes your courage and unfaltering commitment at a time of great peril,” Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler told the veterans.
“Mr Beven, as a sailor for the British Royal Navy on the Landing Ship Tank 199, you crossed the English Channel 13 times to help with the liberation of France. Mr Macvicar, you served on the HMS Scylla, the flagship for the D-Day landing.Mr Sanft, as a crew member of the HMS Holdfast, you were involved in covering the beachheads of Normandy and the landing at Urville-Nacqueville during the D-Day landing".
"For your bravery and your outstanding accomplishments during the Second World War, the French Republic is proud to honour you with its most distinguished recognition.”
About the Order of Arts and Letters
The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is a distinction of France, established on 2 May 1957 by the Ministry of Culture. It recognizes significant contributions to the development of arts, music and literature. Its origin is attributed to the Order of Saint-Michel, which dates back to the 15th century.
The honour, primarily conferred on French nationals, is also awarded each year to a group of international personalities who have contributed significantly to French culture or whose accomplishments have received international recognition. In New Zealand, writer Dame Fiona Kidman, filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson and visual artist Fiona Pardington have been among the past recipients.
About the Legion of Honour
The Légion d’honneur was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to reward both military and civilian distinguished services to the nation. In 2014, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the battle of Normandy, the former French President François Hollande launched a campaign to consider for this award the veterans and civilians who facilitated the liberation of France and her people.
About the 14th of July: Bastille Day
One of the revolutionary days in Paris, it is since 1880 France’s national day. The 14th of July ("Bastille Day") is celebrated with a mixture of solemn military parades as well as celebrations and fireworks. The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 has been commemorated in France for more than a century.
Source: France Diplomatie