This book is about walking as a form of knowing. Armed with Ngāi Tahu’s traditional oral maps and modern satellite atlas, I crossed the Southern Alps more than a dozen times, trying to understand how our forebears saw the land. What did it mean to define your identity by sacred mountains, or actually see them as ancestors, turned to stone?
Raised in the shadow of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, Nic Low grew up on mountain stories from his family’s European side. Years later, a vision of the Alps in a bank of storm clouds sparked a decade-long obsession with comprehending how his Māori ancestors knew that same terrain.
Kā Tiritiri-o-te-moana, the Alps, form the backbone of the Ngāi Tahu tribe’s territory: five hundred kilometres of mountains and glaciers, rivers and forests. Far from being virgin wilderness, the area was named and owned long before Europeans arrived and the struggle for control of the land began.
Low talked with tribal leaders, dived into the archives and an astonishing family memoir, and took what he learned for a walk. Part gripping adventure story, part meditation on history and place, Uprising recounts his alpine expeditions to unlock the stories living in the land.
Uprising is an invitation to travel one of the world’s most spectacular landscapes in the company of Māori explorers, raiding parties, and gods.
‘[Nic Low] is a very endearing storyteller and an earnest storyteller as well…It’s such a pleasure to read.’
‘A narrative of multiple crossings of Kā Tiritiri-o-te-moana, the South Island’s Main Divide, Uprising is a song to the mountains, rivers, glaciers, coasts, skies, weather and more…It is a meditation that intensifies as the book unfolds. And it is deeply personal.’
‘This really is an outstanding book, and one that anyone who likes to wander through the South Island back-country, or who has an interest in the history of that area, needs to read. For many, it will enable the hills to be viewed with a new lens.’
‘[A] great read…Uprising will join the New Zealand canon or blow past it, but whichever, it’ll make an impact…[It] treads the line between trauma and humour, fact and speculative fiction, between Pākehā and Māori and between two languages…Let’s consign this book to a natural progression into myth. That it cast the same strange light Keri Hulme once saw over “this shining land”. That it was called in by the mountains themselves, who yanked a storyteller out of a land full of dust and flies and set him to work on a story wrought from mist and snow. Because it was time. And that he used, with great skill, English words alongside te reo to measure the reach and fetch of the old land.’
‘There’s a bristling, playful energy to Nic Low’s writing…the narrative fairly pulses along at a cracking pace with unexpected detours.’
‘[Low’s] writing is fierce and uncompromising, bringing contemporary anxieties to the surface…This collection fights and grapples with language, counter-culture and consumerism, the characters inhabiting a plastic-elastic world being reshaped in the mould of whoever gets to the gold first…Seductive and frightening.’
‘Uprising is a revelation…carefully researched, well-written, makes dozens of astute observations…and takes New Zealand mountaineering literature to somewhere new and overdue.’
‘Low delicately meanders across multiple spaces which cannot be mapped in any obvious way, across culture, history, spirituality and colonization…[He] reveals his vulnerability with astounding honesty.’
‘A lyrical exploration of alpine trails, history and memory that brilliantly treads the line between trauma and humour, fact and fiction, and Māori and Pākehā worlds.’
‘Nic Low invites us to experience a Maōri understanding of language, land, and history. The book provides both a comfort read and education.’