School of English, Film, Theatre, and Media Studies, 2017
Faith Wilson takes us through writing herself into existence - this is one voice that won’t be shut out.
“The only opinions that matter to me are those I’m writing for: other afakasi, my friends, family, and community … Our own ancestral voices, stories, philosophies are equally important. In white terms, they’re called ‘myths and legends’. But to me they’re real.”
Faith grew up in Tokoroa and Hamilton, coming to Victoria to do Honours in English in 2013. In 2014, she secretly applied to the IIML Master’s programme. Not only was she accepted, but her work there won the Biggs Family Poetry Prize.
Currently, Faith works at The Dowse Art Museum alongside creating her own poetry and performance art.
Writing has always come naturally for Faith, at first as a way to deal with the emotions she was experiencing in her teens.
“Growing up, I didn’t know anyone else mixed race who felt like me,” she says about her mixed Samoan/Pākehā ethnicity. “Writing is the thing that helps me grapple with my identity. It’s the thing I’ll go to every time.”
While growing up, Faith couldn’t see herself represented in anything she was reading. “I used to get off on Continental philosophy, thinking it was like the apex of literature … Then I realised ... this writing isn’t for me. It’s for the white experience.”
It’s true that most of our schooling is based on this ‘white experience’, and Faith reminds me that it’s at the expense of shutting out other voices.
Now in her twenties, it’s a slow process of reacquainting herself with Samoan culture and becoming comfortable with the dislocation that many people of mixed ethnicity feel. “It’s become kind of my mission,” she says.
“To write so that those [other mixed race] people can find solace in someone else’s narrative like I wish I could have when I was younger.”
Faith’s frustrations came to a head after her Master’s, and she took a year-long break from writing. “I wanted to write for my people, but I didn’t know how to do that. So I stopped.”
The "straight up" opinion pieces she got to write for Victoria's Salient in 2016 helped Faith solidify her voice. Salient magazine provides a great platform for diverse voices often missing in other publications.
At Salient, Faithsays, “my ability and confidence to speak about issues really grew ... I gave up pretence and thinking about how I’d be perceived by a critical white audience and pared back my writing”.
Now, she’s working on combining that political strength with a poetic artistry. “I have this newfound passion for writing poetry, I think that comes from the confidence in where I’m at.”
So how should representation work in an ideal future? Faith envisions, “a paradigmatic shift in the way we consider colonialism in New Zealand. An active shift in the way we educate people about colonialism and indigeneity. A world in which the indigenous voice is not the other”.