TSW: BOSS SERIES
Shilo Kino (Ngāpuhi, Waikato-Tainui) is a journalist for Marae TV. Her work has been published in many different media platforms across the country, as well as the Guardian. Shilo also speaks fluent Mandarin, is a member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network of young leaders and has most recently written a book, titled 'The Pōrangi Boy', published by Huia Publishers. We are very honoured to have the incredible, multi-talented Shilo on our TSW: Boss series. Nau mai!
You're a journalist, an advocate for your community and most recently, a published author. So many hats! Let's talk first about your career in journalism. What inspired you to become a journalist?
Like so many urban Māori, I grew up disconnected from my culture, not knowing my language and only going back to my marae when there was a tangi. When you grow up colonized, your identity is shaped by the colonizer. For example, the forms of media we consume such as the books we read, news we watch will shape our perspective and identity. What does it do to a Māori child when the only narrative they see about their own culture is always negative?
I knew I wanted to change this but I didn't know how. I’ve always loved reading and writing since I was a little kid, I used to sit in the library during lunchtime and just read. I wanted to be an author but when I got to high school, I didn't know if it was a viable career. I remember watching Mihi Forbes and Miriama Kamo on TV and in those moments feeling proud to be Māori because I was seeing strong wahine tell our stories and so that's what inspired me to go down the journalism path.
What do you love the most about your career?
We already know Māori are over-represented in every negative statistic there is. We don't need stories that remind us of this. But what we do need is stories that have layers, that are diverse because we are diverse people, and stories that offer hope. I did a story this year for Marae which was about how Māori wahine are the most imprisoned indigenous women in the world. I met three different women who have been through prison and it was a valuable insight for people who just see statistics and numbers… but when you actually take a person behind those stats and get to know them, your perspective widens. It challenges the narrative, which is what I love about my job. Journalism is a powerful platform and I don’t take it for granted.
As a Maori journalist, how important is it for audiences around the world to see indigenous storytellers?
As Taika Waititi said in his Oscar-winning speech, we are the original storytellers. It is no longer acceptable for our stories to be told through the eyes of the colonizer. Our stories are ours and ours alone.
Do you have a favourite indigenous storyteller?
I loved Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou growing up. They wrote a lot about racism, identity and belonging. Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie is also my favourite.
On your journey so far, what is the most significant obstacle you've had to overcome and how were you able to get through it?
There is a saying, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and for many people of colour, we have no choice. We have to be what we can’t see. We walk a lonely path, often having to be the first. The first in our family to graduate, the first in our family to do this or that, the first in our line of work to hold a leadership role.
I am not the first Māori journalist nor the first Māori writer but I’m still travelling down a path that is incredibly lonely. The type of writer I want to be I have not yet seen and so being ‘the first’ can be lonely and there is self-doubt and all that internal conflict but our ancestors are our greatest navigators, so although it feels lonely… we are never alone.
You've just written your book. Amazing! Can you tell us a little bit about it and what inspired you to tell this story?
When I was younger, I remember reading about a town called Ngāwhā who were protesting against a prison being built on sacred land. As an adult, I met with one of the lead protesters Toi Maihi who told me how Ngāwhā locals fought for years to stop the Government spending $100 million on prison on their land. Court battles, multiple hīkoi, huis and occupying the land which resulted in arrests. Toi showed me a photo of a kaumatua who was arrested, and I wondered what it would be like for a child to see their own koro arrested for peacefully protesting? And so I started writing The Porangi boy, which is centred around Niko who has a close relationship with his koro. The government wants to build a prison over the home of the taniwha, and Niko’s koro is called pōrangi, crazy, for protesting. When you think about it, so many of our Māori activists are portrayed as pōrangi, crazy even by our own people. Again, I wanted to challenge that narrative.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and for all the work that you do. What advice do you have for anyone that wants to follow in your footsteps?
As indigenous people, we must shape our own identity. If we don’t, it will be shaped by the colonizer. My advice is to find out who you are. If we don’t know who you are, you will be continually searching, you will be lost. The emptiness we feel comes from colonization, from land loss, the loss of language and our disconnect to our culture, to our ancestors. It is only when we acknowledge the past, we are able to move forward and fulfil our purpose.
Get your copy of Shilo's book here: https://huia.co.nz/huia-bookshop/bookshop/the-porangi-boy/