Author Brannavan Gnanalingam, director and writer Eleanor Bishop, art and social commentator LaQuisha St Redfern and playwright and actor Victor Rodger – all of whom feature in Wellington’s fourth LitCrawl next week – sit down with to discuss the enduring topics that occupy their work. What do a Sri Lankan former refugee, a feminist, a drag and a Samoan playwright have in common?
They are minorities fighting to have their voices heard in a society constructed by patriarchal and colonial values.
Dani: Brannavan, what will you be talking about in LitCrawl?
Brannavan: I’m going to be talking about my new book Sodden Downstream. It’s essentially about a refugee cleaner trying to get to work and if she doesn’t get to work, she loses her job. It’s set in Lower Hutt during a storm. I write about contemporary issues and I write about the everyday world that I see or grew up in.
Dani: Why was it important to have a refugee as the main character?
Brannavan: One, there are so few Sri Lankan characters in New Zealand literature. I wanted to reflect that. Second, my publisher Murdoch runs the Doing Our Bit campaign to double the refugee quota and I thought telling a refugee story could be one of my contributions to that. It’s also based on the fact that the Sri Lankan Civil War was something my family and I went through, so I can write from personal experience.
Dani: How are contemporary issues relevant to your writing?
Brannavan: The refugee crisis has been ongoing for a while, particularly post-Syria, but also now with what’s happening in Burma and South Sudan, so it’s a major political issue which everyone is kind of running away from.
New Zealand has had a woeful response to that issue as its refugee quota has barely changed from 1987.
Also, there was a major storm happening in Wellington and we’ve had quite a few of those
Brannavan Gnanalingam focuses on the story of a refugee.
Eleanor new Bishop’s theatre examines work female desire.