takahē magazine is delighted to announce the winner of our inaugural essay competition 2017.
The team would like to thank all entrants for participating. We acknowledge the high standard of entrants and wish them well in their future endeavours.
It’s Not a Life by Robyn Maree Pickens
The winning essay will be published online in takahē 90
Highly commended: Canoeing to Jerusalem by James Ackhurst
Special mentions: License to Laugh by Emer Lyons, and Tūrangawaewae by Nadine Millar
Judge’s Report – Erin Harrington, Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Canterbury and emeritus takahē Essays Editor:
This is the first time takahē has run an essay competition off this type, and it was interesting to note a few prevailing trends in the pieces submitted. Many entries were personal essays or works of memoir. Certain themes dominated, especially issues surrounding belonging, nationhood, whakapapa, history, memory, and identity. Some stayed quite close to home, while others looked further afield, offering intriguing perspectives on topics as varied as everyday items, crime and punishment, geology, and infrastructure. It was heartening, too, to see a genuine variety of perspectives, with Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, and immigrant points of view all present. This made for some very entertaining and enlightening reading.
The essays that most caught my eye were those that demonstrated a flair for language and prose, put forward a clear argument or point of view, and exhibited a degree of sophistication in the way that they explored their chosen topic. While many of the best retained a first-person perspective, they used this as a point of departure; they generally looked out, rather than in. In doing so, these essays were successful in exploring sometimes weighty and complex topics and ideas with a combination of thoughtfulness, wit and insight.
The winning essay, “It’s Not a Life”, starts with an anecdotal account of the author’s experiences in the sort of draughty, damp, mouldy houses that characterise New Zealand’s shameful housing stock, and then uses this as context for a perceptive account of power, poverty and art. This is a well-considered and detailed essay that demonstrates a flair for language and a dry sense of humour. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
While there is only space for one winning essay, I would also like to particularly congratulate the authors of three other essays: “Canoeing to Jerusalem”, a piece about James K. Baxter, poetry, and national literatures; “Licence to Laugh”, which interrogates sexism and the representation of women (and men cross-dressing as women) in theatre, comedy and television; and “Tūrangawaewae”, which explores the importance of stories and storytelling in our personal and national histories.
I appreciate the efforts of all those who entered work. Ngā mihi nui.