I thought of the end of the world, Ōtepoti writer Hana Pera Aoake said over the phone.
Not that Aoake (Ngaati Hinerangi me Ngaati Raukawa, Ngaati Mahuta, Tainui / Waikato, Ngaati Waewae, Ngaati Wairangi, Waitaha, Kaati Mamoe) thinks the world is ending, they point out, although it is difficult to question anyone. might believe it right now. But it is difficult to look away from the plurality of crises currently unfolding. “That there are all these disasters that have happened the entire time that I’m alive, and how it hurts to bring a kid in there.”
The 31-year-old poet and essayist is seven and a half months pregnant. Motivated by the ideas of whakapapa and whenua, the author of Kawakawa bath and hot water, published last year, evocatively writes about existence and philosophy, and heritage, and belonging, and growing up. This month, Aoake will address an audience of writers on climate change and representations of gender and the body in literature.
“Before I had baby brains, I had written a few essays on the kinds of things my child and other people’s children, the next generation will face,” says Aoake. “Climate change, the degradation of the land around us and how they relate to the inequalities that we see and which are also exacerbated by the virus. “
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Aoake felt like he had returned to a different world by landing in New Zealand just before the lockdown last year, leaving behind Lisbon, Portugal, where they had undertaken art and philosophy studies in Mausmaus. . Program participants had no idea New Zealand, or that New Zealand had an indigenous population, and Aoake noted Europe’s decline from its colonial history to the fractures of the European Union, refugee crises.
During this time, they watched Ihumātao from a distance unfold, unable to tautoko (support) with whakapapa or protectors. Family members fell ill, and then Lisbon closed its doors.
“You could see the inequalities in the city quite starkly,” says Aoake. “(Then) I guess I really didn’t feel out of place in New Zealand, seeing all the beginnings of what it was going to be and how it would destroy vulnerable communities. It was seeing people I knew in precarious situations. It was a bit of a shock to come back. I felt like my family took him seriously, but other people in the community didn’t take him seriously at all.
With “ancestral memories of the disease” – urupā with mass graves of flu victims and a grandfather with polio – Aoake passed the first lockdown under pressure. “I got really pissed off. People were making leaven. I wrote a lot, for my own records. When this baby is older, how am I going to explain 2020 and 2021 to him? This year, Aoake has felt more relaxed, with an increase in vaccinations. They made a sourdough starter.
And, Aoake decided to have a baby. Bodily autonomy has taken on a new meaning – the elder Pākehā women touching their stomachs in supermarkets, asking them what they have. Aoake is non-binary.
“I’m just saying I’m having a baby. I remember as a child receiving things like a vacuum cleaner and a stroller. I do not want that. It was a very hard line: I don’t want anything pink. I know what the baby is. It’s clean. It’s a baby.
The literature can be seriously heteronormative, but Aoake thinks the tide may be changing. Their younger sister, 21, has a vocabulary and understanding of gender and sexuality that Aoake never had. There should be more representation, especially from indigenous groups.
It doesn’t have to be obvious. “We don’t really write specifically about the genre in a really specific way. It’s right there, and it’s part of us.
Hana Pera Aoake talks about climate change, gender and the body, at the New Zealand Young Writers Festival, October 28-31 in Dunedin. For the full schedule, visit youngwritersfest.nz.
The Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards are now open.
It’s not too late to participate in the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards
Registrations for 2021 Sunday Star-Times The news contest is open and ends on October 22. Now in their 38th year, the awards are among New Zealand’s most prestigious and established writing awards.
In association with the Milford Foundation and Random penguin house this year’s prize pool is $ 9,000, of which $ 6,000 is awarded to the winner of the open category. The award for Under 25 and Emerging Maori Writers is $ 1,000.
It is also an opportunity for writers to receive critical comments and to publish the winning story in the Sunday Star-Times and on Thing. This year’s judges are acclaimed writers Patricia Grace, Rosetta Allan, Megan Dunn and Amy McDaid. Go to bit.ly/sstshortstory enter.