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Connecting the islands of the heart through creative communication - Massey

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Mikaela Nyman, poet, novelist and non-fiction writer from the autonomous, demilitarised Åland Islands in Finland, is taking up residency in ManawatÅ« in March as Massey University’s Visiting Artist for 2021.

Massey creative writing lecturers Dr Thom Conroy and Dr Laura Jean McKay selected Ms Nyman from a sensational shortlist of international and national writers, and are delighted she will be the visting artist.

The visiting artist residency programme is a partnership formed by Massey’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences in collaboration with the Palmerston North City Council and Square Edge Community Arts. The programme was established in 2004 and is open to emerging and established writers.

Ms Nyman, currently based in New Plymouth, will dedicate her time in the ManawatÅ« to two projects: her first poetry collection in English, and editing a memoir by a Vanuatu writer. The poetry collection is tentatively entitled The Anatomy of Sand,while the memoir offers "a rare woman’s perspective to existing historical and colonial accounts of Vanuatu."

2021 will also see the publication of a much-anticipated anthology of Vanuatu women’s writing Sista, Stanap Strong! (VUP), which she co-edited with Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen. The book arises out of Ms Nyman’s long-standing collaboration with ni-Vanuatu writers.

Ms Nyman draws on life-changing experiences for her writing, including a four-year stint living in Vanuatu where she survived a cyclone, and the impact of a sister’s death. Set in 2015 in Port Vila, Vanuatu, her novel, titled Sado, narrates a moving and courageous story in the wake of the category-5 Cyclone Pam that caused widespread destruction.

"As the original launch of Sado was side-lined by the 2020 lockdown, we are especially pleased to co-host a celebration of Sado for Off the Page on Friday, 23 March at the Palmerston North City Library," says Dr Conroy.

In a 2020 Spinoff review, Vanuatu writer Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen described Ms Nyman’s novel as "one of the first books I have picked up where I could see a bit of myself and others around me, as well as our individual and combined experiences written in print," adding that "Sado’s contribution to the literary scene in Vanuatu, through the telling of stories about an experience that unites a nation, cannot be overstated."

"Focused on the devasting impact of Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and the intersection of cultures in the Pacific, Nyman’s debut novel Sadocouldn’t be more timely," according to Drs Conroy and McKay. "Her writing beautifully intertwines issues related to climate change with urgent ethical questions about intercultural collaboration and cooperation."

During a busy time in Vanuatu managing the New Zealand’s aid response to tropical cyclone Pam, Ms Nyman was excited to come across local poets. Her discovery inspired to share her knowledge and find out about other ni-Vanuatu writers.

"I’ve shared my writing, my knowledge and skills with emerging ni-Vanuatu women writers, facilitating creative writing workshops and collaborative poetry events, in order to find my place in the world and enable ni-Vanuatu writers to grow as writers and see their work published," she says.

During her residency, Ms Nyman plans to work with Massey’s creative writing students and to facilitate writing workshops for ManawatÅ«’s migrant and Pasifika communities.

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