3 Quick Questions with Anahera Gildea

AnaheraAnahera Gildea (Ngāti Raukawa-ki-te-tonga, Ngāi te Rangi, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Te Āti Awa, Kāi Tahu) has worked as a drama teacher, an art teacher, a visual artist, a performing artist, a florist, a stilt walker, and a journalist. She answers our 3 quick questions in the lead up to teaching ‘Alternative Structures – Working with A Trauma Narrative’ at our upcoming Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat.

1. You’ve worked in a diverse range of creative professions. Is writing something that’s always been part of your creative process?

I think it’s fair to say that I have always been a narrator – narration has always been part of my creative process – regardless of whether or not I have engaged in the act of writing that down. Words and how they can be both manoeuvred or wielded in order to construct a feeling/response event, has been instrumental in my creative process and so in that sense, yes – writing has always played a part.

As a dancer I would often work with either words, or an imagined narrative, to tell a story with my body. In drama, obviously, words and story are the building blocks of what you are making; it’s just that often a part of that narrative is either being constructed with others in rehearsal, and/or onstage. Performance is a story that takes place in very close proximity to its audience. Journalism is a kind of story (often delivered in written form), visual art is another kind of narrative, etc., etc.

In my work as a teacher, I interact predominantly with students who are experiencing challenges both emotionally and academically. What I find my ‘actual’ job is, is to re-narrate those students, to both themselves and others. To find an alternative angle on the story they are living, or to construct with them a completely new one.

​2. ​You’ve got a strong interest in how form affects and/or limits the needs of a story. In your own writing practice how do you consciously push these structures, notions of time or character out of the way so you can write the story in the way it needs to be told? 

Frustration has been the key to my experimentation with form. It was out of need, rather than any kind of intelligent curiosity, that I began wrangling with the ‘architecture’ of stories. I’m often writing content that has distressing, conflicted, and unresolvable elements and that is delivered by similarly complicated characters. Not only that but all of my creative work is written in reference to, or under the cerements of colonisation. It’s impossible for it to be otherwise and I am keenly aware of that. The English language is only versatile if you are expressing certain concepts. Because I was often trying to express Māori concepts, I found myself desperate to identify ways that I could ‘stretch’ or manipulate English, in order to make it serve me.

3. You’ll be talking about the ‘speed of creativity’ at the upcoming Retreat. What does it look like for you? 

Unique, permissive, and irreverent. The difficulty of locating our own specific process is, for me, about the complexity of stepping outside of stereotypes, the expectations of others, and of our inner critical and product-driven selves. We are often obsessed with ‘product’, with what we can produce, what that looks like, and how others receive it. For me this is counter-productive and disregards the fact that process must invariably precede product. We are often, either consciously or subconsciously, attempting to force our process into a kind of slavery. We want to yoke it and set it to work in order to help us create product. And, on some level, this seems like a reasonable expectation. It’s just that in all my years of teaching art and creativity, and in my own personal experience, I have never seen it successfully work like this. Learning to move at the ‘speed of creativity’ means learning to welcome process for its own sake.

Find out more about the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat.

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