The Curious Case Of The Grace Family
The idea of inherited creativity is not obviously supported by history, though anyone looking for a plausible case can’t resist that of Patricia Grace, her daughter-in-law Briar Grace-Smith, and her granddaughter (Briar’s daughter) Miriama Grace-Smith, who were recently brought together in a panel discussion at this year’s Semi Permanent festival, held at St James Theatre in Wellington.
A large part of the fascination with these three women, an all-star team with the strongest of imaginative roots, is the sense of entangled familyhood: they bounce around ideas about projects and each tell stories connected to the place and land they live on, their identity as women and as Māori, and the history and politics of Aotearoa.
Across their lifetimes, they have also each become something of a preeminent figure. In 1975, with Waiariki, Patricia became the first Māori woman to publish a book of short stories. Her name is now synonymous with a keen observer who knows the power of words and how to care for them; whose chief virtue, even as she exhilarates in the cosmos of fiction, is truth-teller, carving space for Māori characters that are rooted in everyday experience — real and palpable and representational in their sheer ordinariness. It has become commonplace to hear her described as a generational icon: an oracle, all-seeing and instinctual, with the adoration and heart of a national treasure.