Interview: Elfie Shiosaki

The Stella Prize chats with Elfie Shiosaki, shortlisted for the 2022 Stella Prize

Leanne Hall Stella Interview

Congratulations on being shortlisted for the 2022 Stella Prize! What does it mean to you to be included on the list?

Thank you. I am proud that the 2022 Stella Prize longlist honours the story work of five First Nations writers, and that Homecoming stands side-by-side with these works.

Your shortlisted debut book, Homecoming, has been described by Australian Arts Review as an “extraordinary form of restorative story work [which] amplifies Aboriginal women’s voices” and speaks to “the intergenerational dialogue about Country, kin and culture.” What would you say are some of the central ambitions or themes of the collection, and how long did it take you to create from concept to completion?

Homecoming is an exploration of the daring agencies of First Nations women and girls, including my own Whadjuk and Wilman Noongar grandmothers, to resist colonisation and renew our cultural life ways. Some of the stories in the collection are more than a century old, but are of the here and now. Homecoming is an expression of my loving devotion to all women and girls who carve out new pathways for next generations. This story work was creatively nurtured by Magabala Books, and I treasure their safe hands for Aboriginal women’s stories and voices.

Your book interposes poetry, prose, and historical colonial archives. What is it that drew you to this form?

Homecoming explores the unending love for children within Noongar families. The stories in the collection are written in fragments to reflect my own lived experience of weaving together connections between mothers and children, and grandmothers and grandchildren in my family. At different times, we re-connect with each other, even if we are only looking up at the same Milky Way, swimming in the same Indian Ocean or feeling the same Southerly on our skin.

Can you tell us a bit about how you write (where, when, on what)?

My writing practice is influenced by my teaching and research about Indigenous human rights. Homecoming is an assertion of self-determination, a desire to determine my own stories and storylines.

“At different times, we re-connect with each other, even if we are only looking up at the same Milky Way, swimming in the same Indian Ocean or feeling the same Southerly on our skin.”

 

Is there a particular book you’ve discovered through the Stella Prize that has had an influence on your own work, or moved you in some way?

I followed the pathways carved out by Narungga woman Natalie Harkin and Yamatji woman Charmaine Papertalk-Green, who have both written extraordinary collections of poetry that reckon with archives and their legacies for Aboriginal people. I found reading their story work liberating, because they decolonise archives and centre First Nations women’s stories and voices in their practices of making history.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Not yet, I am enjoying a rest, and reading the 2022 Stella Prize longlist.

Find out more about Elfie Shiosaki’s 2022 Stella Prize shortlisted book Homecoming.

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