13 Jun 2023
Fijian science fiction writer Gina Cole (MNZM) will spend three months at the University of Hawai'i working on the second book in her ‘Turukawa Trilogy’.
Supported through our Pacific Arts Strategy, this annual residency is offered in partnership with Fulbright New Zealand. The three-month residency is based at the Centre for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai‘i in Honolulu, and enables an established Pasifika writer to work on a project exploring Pacific identity, culture or history.
Gina says being the 2023 recipient of this residency will have a positive impact on her writing.
“It will give me the opportunity to spend time in the Pacific, immersed in a Pacific Island sensibility, on Hawaiian whenua – as well as having access to the university resources and to the indigenous community of writers and artists there.”
Gina is a freelance writer who lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. She was the inaugural Pasifika curator at the Auckland Writers Festival in 2021, holds a PhD in creative writing from Massey University and is an Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa. Gina’s collection of short stories, Black Ice Matter, won Best First Book Fiction at the 2017 Ockham Book Awards.
A self-described “science fiction nerd”, Gina says when she enrolled to do a PhD in Creative Writing at Massey University, she decided to write science fiction - especially stories set in space.
“I found there was hardly any science fiction written by Pacific writers or featuring Pacific characters,” she says. “I wanted to change that.”
Gina’s latest book, Na Viro – the first in her ‘Turukawa Trilogy’ - is a work of Pasifikafuturism, a term she coined in her PhD thesis.
“Pasifikafuturism was inspired by Afrofuturism, written by African American writers, and Indigenous Futurism written by First Nations writers from America,” Gina says.
“It’s science fiction grounded in Pacific cultural practices, featuring Pacific characters, written for a Pacific readership and anyone else interested in science fiction written from a Pacific Ocean point of view. In my writing, I use outer space as a metaphor for the ocean.
“Science fiction provides the ability to imagine new futures and to recover Indigenous histories that may have been lost in the colonial project.”
Pacific women are at the heart of Na Viro, as well as Pasifika concepts and practices.
“There are several Pasifika concepts that underpin my writing, especially wayfinding and waka building. Wayfinding navigation features in the project I'll work on in Hawai'i, as a method of space travel and a methodology of leadership.”
Gina says she is inspired by Epeli Hau'ofa’s description of the Pacific as ‘a sea of islands.’
“We share an interconnected web of relationships through our geographical location in the Pacific Ocean”, she says. “The sea is a fluid biotic mass that connects us.”
“In my work, I imagine space as a sky of islands or a galaxy of islands, or a universe of islands.”
Due to COVID-19 impacts, this residency was postponed in 2020 and 2021. The 2019 recipient was award-winning director, writer, playwright and journalist, Oscar Kightley.
“As a Pacific storyteller, my experience in Hawai’i had a huge impact on my practice”, Oscar says.
“One of the most valuable things for me was deepening and creating new connections with the community over there. Working collaboratively and sharing ideas with artists as well as academics helped me form trusting relationships that have continued to enrich my work here in Aotearoa. I wish Gina all the best.”
When discussing representation, Gina also says there is also a significant lack of queer, transgender and gender non-conforming characters in science fiction.
“The current reality is that science fiction is dominated by a middle class, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual male point of view. It is important to counter that, and offer alternative futures where we, as queer Pasifika people, exist and are thriving,” she says.
“Science fiction can be used as a tool to write about culture and queer identity, especially in the afterlife of imperialism and colonialism in the Pacific.”
Makerita Urale, Senior Manager, Pacific Arts – who is also an alumnus of this residency, prior to joining Creative New Zealand – says the global partnership with Fulbright and the University of Hawai’i provides a unique environment for Pasifika writers from Aotearoa to focus on writing and research.
“This residency is prestigious, holding mana for our Pacific literary community in Aotearoa, and aligns with the Moana and Tagata pou of our Pacific Arts Strategy. Gina's background of advocacy and commitment to writing queer Pacific stories into the popular genre of Science Fiction is carving a new path for Pacific literature.”
Gina and the other 2023 Fulbright Grantees will be honoured at the annual Fulbright New Zealand Awards Ceremony at Parliament on Wednesday 28th June, hosted by Greg O’Connor, Deputy Speaker.
Media enquiries, contact Esther Lees, Senior Communications Advisor, Pacific.