Mikaela Nyman

Mikaela wrote a novel set in Vanuatu. Her critical thesis explored women's empowerment and creativity in Vanuatu and their public voices.

PhD awarded 2020

Mikaela's short fiction, creative non-fiction and poems have appeared in World Literature Today, Trasdemar, Sport, Turbine, Minarets, Blackmail Press, JAAM, 4th Floor, Lumiére Arts Reader, SWAMP, Strong Words 2019: The Best of the Landfall Essay Competition, and the anthologies More of Us (2019) and Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand (2020). In 2011 she completed an MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University of Wellington's IIML, followed by four years in Vanuatu. Her first poetry collection in Swedish, När vändkrets läggs mot vändkrets, was published by Ellips in 2019 and nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2020. Her first novel, Sado, set in Vanuatu in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Pam, was published by Te Herenga Waka University Press in March 2020.

She hails 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 in 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's PhD research was practice-led and used an applied research approach. The thesis sits within the inter-disciplinary frameworks of Pacific Studies and Cultural Studies. As an extension of her research methodology into decolonising methods of research embedded in indigenous knowledge and local context, she's facilitated creative writing workshops and a Poetri Pawa/Poetry Power event in Port Vila, conducted oral history conversations, and collaborated with emerging and established ni-Vanuatu and Solomon Island writers. The ethos guiding her project is to hold the space for ni-Vanuatu women writers to tell their own stories. In the spirit of Lisa King's ideas on rhetorical sovereignty and rhetorical alliance, she explored opportunities to generate more published writing from Vanuatu in collaboration with ni-Vanuatu writers. She is the co-editor, with Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen, of Sista, Stanap Strong! A Vanuatu Women's Anthology (VUP in 2021). The anthology celebrates women's voices in commemoration of Vanuatu's 40th independence anniversary. It has been introduced into Vanuatu's Port Vila International School curriculum: the first time creative writing by ni-Vanuatu writers is taught there.

In 2021, Mikaela was the Visiting Artist/Writer in Residence for Massey University, Palmerston North City and Square Edge Community Arts Centre. She also received a Creative New Zealand Arts Grant for literature, part of which she dedicated to offering 'writing for wellbeing' sessions to her local community in Taranaki.

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 a non-indigenous, can write about, and how.

'It is exciting to get an opportunity to explore the hybrid nature of critical and creative writing in the Pacific – territory opened up by Albert Wendt, Epeli Hau'ofa, Teresia Teaiwa and other eminent scholar writers. For my research project, I investigated how ni-Vanuatu women 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 patriarchal culture and society, but it does exist. What compels a minority of women to attempt to follow in revered poet Grace Mera Molisa's footsteps? I'd like to contribute to raising the visibility of Melanesian women in the literary world and shine a light on the wealth of creative expression and storytelling that exists. For my creative project I wrote a novel, Sado, along similar lines: from the perspective of an outsider (who has had the privilege of living in Vanuatu) looking in; set in Vanuatu and in New Zealand.'

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