Junior Novel: The Activist, The Taniwha And The Government
In small-town Aotearoa, the government wants to build a prison over sacred land and destroy the home of a taniwha. Twelve-year-old Niko wants to stop it, but he is a nobody, and everyone thinks he is pōrangi, crazy. Who is going to listen to him?
This is the dilemma for the young activist in Shilo Kino’s debut novel, The Pōrangi Boy. The first-time author has created a contemporary story about a young leader who stands up to fight for a cause and encourages a community to come together to protect its land and way of life.
The story is inspired by actual events that occurred in Ngāwhā, Northland, where Māori opposed a prison being built on sacred ground where it could also disturb the home of a taniwha.
‘On a trip up North, I picked up a community paper and noticed a tiny article about the protest,’ says Shilo. ‘My first thoughts were, why is the article so small, and why isn’t this national news?’ Shilo continues, ‘I also asked my mum if taniwha were real.’
As a journalist, Shilo is incredibly passionate about writing and sharing Māori stories and perspectives. Shilo completed The Pōrangi Boy while on Te Papa Tupu, a six-month mentoring programme developed by the Māori Literature Trust and organised by Huia Publishers.
‘Te Papa Tupu was vital to the novel being published. I learnt how to be a disciplined writer, and I had someone there to support and help me along the way,’ says Shilo.
Niko can be seen as one of the new wave of youth everywhere coming forward and fighting for a cause. With role models like Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and Pania Newton, here in Aotearoa, Shilo hopes The Pōrangi Boy will inspire young people to get up and fight for what they believe in.
The Pōrangi Boy will be launched alongside Goddess Muscle, a collection by Pasifika poet Karlo Mila, on Tuesday, 3 November at Fale Pasifika in Auckland.
By Shilo Kino
Shilo Kino (Ngā Puhi, Tainui) is a journalist who works for Marae. She has had her work published in the New Zealand Herald, The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff and Huia Short Stories collections and was a participant in the 2018 Te Papa Tupu writing programme. Shilo is fluent in Mandarin, has lived in Hong Kong and is a member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network of young leaders strengthening ties with Asia.
HUIA is a Māori-owned independent publisher committed to creating wonderful and provocative books with a uniquely Māori perspective.