Don’t call me a Māori writer.
I am a writer who is Māori.
Yeah, there’s a difference.
I tell stories. Stories I hope will shape perspective. Give life more meaning. And as clichéd as it sounds, provide a voice for the voiceless.
My Māori culture means everything to me. It is, of course, part of my identity. In fact, it is every part of who I am.
But one thing I have learnt from Te Papa Tupu is that we are simply not just ‘Māori’ writers.
We are writers who offer a Māori perspective, but our perspective is not the same. We share a gift of telling stories, but that’s where our similarities end. We were not chosen because we are Māori. We were chosen because we are writers.
I want the other five recipients to be successful just as much as I want to be successful. I am in awe of the support, love and inspiration that comes from the other participants and my mentor. It is refreshing and a change from a world often consumed by egotism and selfishness.
My book is a piece of my heart that I am laying out bare. I wrote it three years ago, in the space of six months.
The story lived inside my head for years. Niko, the thirteen-year-old protagonist in my story, nagged at me every minute of the day to write.
After I finished my manuscript, I went and served a mission for my Church in Hong Kong, a noisy, bustling city that gave me perspective. I came home and dug out my manuscript.
And now I’m here, a part of something special. But this is a lot harder than I expected it to be.
I recently got a new job, and I’m moving three hours south to a new place. In between a new full-time job, moving houses and juggling my social life, church commitments, family time and exercise, I have no idea when I’m supposed to write.
And if I’m not careful, writing becomes a chore rather than a joy.
But I write because I love it. I love being a writer. I’m proud to be Māori. There is a deep satisfaction and pure joy in my soul when I write. And I’m incredibly grateful to be part of a programme that encourages me to do what I love.
But do not expect my story to be the blanket ‘Māori’ perspective. There is no such thing. I am one voice among many.
Shilo Kino (Ngā Puhi, Tainui) is a journalist who previously worked for Fairfax Media and has had stories published in Huia Short Stories. She speaks fluent Mandarin from serving a volunteer mission in Hong Kong. Shilo is delighted to be selected for Te Papa Tupu 2018.