Mikaela Nyman

Mikaela is writing a novel set in Vanuatu. Her critical thesis explores women’s empowerment and creativity in Vanuatu and their public voices.

Commenced 2016

Mikaela's short fiction, creative non-fiction and poems have appeared in Sport, Turbine, Minarets, Blackmail Press, JAAM, 4th Floor, Lumiére Arts Reader, SWAMP and the Air Vanuatu inflight magazine. In 2011 she completed an MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University's IIML, followed by four years in Vanuatu.

She is a Kiwifinn from the autonomous, demilitarised Åland islands in Finland and has a background in journalism, African and Asian studies, international relations and development. English is her fourth language. She spent some years working with the labour movement in Zimbabwe in the late 1990s on workers' education during a volatile time in Zimbabwe's history. Her MA research (University of Southern Queensland) on civil society's role in the democratisation of Indonesia in the post-Suharto era was published by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies in 2006 and by Routledge in 2008.

Mikaela writes: 'I'm interested in questions around culture, identity and migration; how displacement and life experiences influence the behaviour of individuals and communities, particularly in relation to women's empowerment, and how this is articulated. I'm interested in how new language is shaped in the collision between foreign and indigenous, and what is lost in translation and between generations. And there is always the question what I, as an outsider (as in "non-indigenous"), can write about, and how.

'I'm excited to get this opportunity to explore the hybrid nature of critical and creative writing in the Pacific, a territory opened up by Albert Wendt, Epeli Hau'ofa, Teresia Teaiwa and others. For my research project I'm investigating how women in Vanuatu have expressed their creativity, made their voices heard and exerted influence in the public sphere. Women's writing is largely invisible in Vanuatu due to a strong oral and male-dominated culture, but it does exist. What compels a minority of women to attempt to follow in Grace Mera Molisa's footsteps? I would like to contribute to raising the visibility of Melanesian women in the literary world and shed light on the wealth of creative expression and storytelling that exists. For my creative project I'm writing a novel along similar lines, from the perspective of an outsider looking in, set in Vanuatu and in New Zealand.'

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