Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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'Sado' - A novel and Expressions of creativity and rhetorical allience: Ni-Vanuatu women's voices

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posted on 2021-06-08, 01:01 authored by Mikaela Nyman
This PhD thesis in creative writing explores women’s marginalised or under-represented public voices in Vanuatu, focusing on literary writing. The thesis is in two parts and uses the dual lenses of fiction and critical thinking to explore the factors that define women’s realities and circumscribe the avenues for their voices to be heard and for their creative work to be published. The creative component is the main research element and consists of a novel, Sado,set in Vanuatu. The critical component addresses the invisibility of Ni-Vanuatu women writers and the ways in which they have attempted to overcome and challenge existing social and traditional power structures that silence women. The critical enquiry includes oral history interviews with three generations of Ni-Vanuatu women writers. This thesis is practice-led and uses an applied research approach, rather than a theoretical approach. The novel dramatises and articulates the moral and ethical dilemmas,regarding women’s place in society and the challenges posed by customary traditions rooted in a specific place for an increasingly mobile and urban population. The ethos guiding this project is to hold the space for Ni-Vanuatu women writers to tell their own stories.The thesis sits within the inter-disciplinary frameworks of Pacific Studies and Cultural Studies. It draws on Pacific literature and uses feminist theory and methodology,in combination with articulation and oral history methods,to examine the enabling and constraining factors, the actions, motivation and themes of three generations of Ni-Vanuatu writers, established and emerging, and the alliances they are attempting to forge. The thesis finds, firstly, that gendered norms, certain policies and aspects of customary traditions that use the male position as a default have contributed to limiting the public space for Ni-Vanuatu women’s voices to be heard and given due recognition. It furthermore finds that colonial language policies, particularly in education, have contributed to a reluctance to consider Bislama an appropriate literary vehicle. Finally,literary efforts in Vanuatu continue to be hampered by the absence of a community of writers, supportive institutions, publishing outlets, editorial support and a lack of finance for self-publishing work in printed form. An exploration of the significance of the poetry and non-fiction of two published Ni-Vanuatu writers, Grace Mera Molisa and Mildred Sope, anchors this research project historically. A creative writing workshop and oral history conversations constitute an extension of my research methodology into decolonising methods of research embedded in indigenous knowledge and local context. They likewise provide a generative and more collaborative form of meaning-making. In the spirit of Lisa King’s ideas on rhetorical sovereignty and rhetorical alliance, I explore various opportunities to generate more published writing from Vanuatu in collaboration with Ni-Vanuatu writers.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains All Rights

Degree Discipline

Creative Writing

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280122 Expanding knowledge in creative arts and writing studies



Victoria University of Wellington School

International Institute of Modern Letters


Wilkins, Damien; Teaiwa, Teresia; Molisa, Pala