Since the 1970s, Māori literature in English has increasingly been translated into European languages. Although Witi Ihimaera’s novels count among the most frequently translated Māori books, scholarship has not examined the practices of these translations and the modes of conveying the cultural contexts in which these novels are embedded. The translation of Māori literature into European languages is not merely a linguistic endeavour but also one of culture transfer.

This article closely scrutinises the translation of some of Ihimaera’s novels into four different European languages: Slovene, Italian, Dutch and German. Drawing on theories of domestication and foreignization, this study establishes that European translators have employed different strategies for translating the cultural contexts of the source texts. These strategies have resulted in either the non-translation of cultural contexts (foreignization), or the conversion of foreign cultural references into familiar ones (domestication). Whereas some translations evince a highly sophisticated technique of cultural translation, others have settled for the opposite. The problematic aspects of some translations relate particularly to the inclusion of the Māori language and to cultural references non-existent in the source texts.