In the early 20th century Johannes Andersen was a clerk in the Christchurch office of the Department of Lands and Survey. He began writing poetry and turned, like others at the time, to Māori traditions for inspiration. At first he wrote this collection of Māori lore in poetic form; but then decided to present it in prose with the expectation, as the dedication suggests, that it would provide inspiration for other poets and artists. He argued that New Zealand culture should turn to Māori stories in place of classical legends. Eventually Andersen became editor of the Journal of the Polynesian Society and librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, and he always retained an interest in Māori history and traditions.
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Reference: Johannes C. Andersen, Maori life in Ao-tea. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1907, cover, dedication
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