A man who doesn't like talking much about himself has let his award-winning written work speak for itself.
Hawke's Bay local Sir Dr Tā Tīmoti Kāretu received this year's Māori Language Award for his book Mātāmua ko te Kupu! at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
The book offers a lifetime of insights into the art forms of haka and waiata.
He was presented the award at the Kiri te Kanawa Theatre, in the Aotea Centre in Auckland, on Wednesday night.
When asked about what it means to win the award, Kāretu said it was always embarrassing having to talk about oneself and the work he has done in his 84 years.
The Māori scholar and linguist's achievements are vast.
In late 2020 Kāretu was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for non-fiction for the same publication.
The renowned academic, who lives in Havelock North, said very few books like it are written in their original language; most are translations.
"The only thing that differentiates ourselves from any other country in the world is our language and for that reason it's an important part of our identity and who we are," Kāretu said.
"I am a linguist first and foremost and have dedicated myself to the proposition that this language must be spoken more widely."
The book's formulation was prompted by his former students at the University of Waikato - where he served as the inaugural head of the Department of Māori - who said he should start collecting all of his writings and compositions.
Mātāmua ko te Kupu! took several years to finish, the author saying he kept having to change the content and lyrics and has been trying to adapt the language to cope with a new age to stay relevant.
"In the Māori world you can't dance without the text – you've got to have a lyric and have a text," he said.
In 2019, Kāretu translated nine songs from English to Māori for the album, Waiata / Anthems, which reached number one on the New Zealand album charts in September 2019.
In the 2017 Queen's Birthday Honours he was named a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the Māori language.
At the Ockham awards night judge Paraone Gloyne said we are fortunate Kāretu's lifetime of reflections in te reo and Māori performing arts has been encapsulated in his own words.
"Lyric is paramount! This is the axiom of Sir Dr Tīmoti Kāretu, and there is no other than he who best personifies this statement in all his labours for the Māori language over countless years," he said.
Winners of the Māori Language, General Non-Fiction, Poetry and Illustrated Non-Fiction awards each took home a $10,000 prize at the Ockham Book Awards.