Tina Makereti has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Landfall Essay Competition with her striking essay about her journey surviving breast cancer. 'Lumpectomy' is an exploration of the body and its boundaries. In writing that is both poised and honest, Tina shares what surprised her about cancer and what she learnt from it, and seeks out answers to many of the questions that her experience has brought up regarding healthcare in Aotearoa.
“This essay is a way for me to make meaning from my experience of cancer, to laugh about it, and to ask questions about what we're missing when we think about sickness and wellbeing.”
Tina also examines the conditions that may have caused her cancer, touching on the perceived value of 'overworking' in today's work culture and the sense of responsibility she feels in her career as a Māori woman. Exploring these topics has allowed her to question how stress can take a toll on the body.
“Why did reaching a certain level of career success seem to exacerbate the conditions that might cause sickness? Why, when my cancer care was so excellent, did it also seem to miss so much of what is essential to health? How and why do the stresses of work and life environments affect Māori and Pasifika women disproportionately? How was I responsible for the sickness of my body and what could I do about it?”
Tina's unwavering honesty in seeking answers to these questions opens up a discussion on healthcare and working culture in New Zealand, where politics intersects with personal experience. In her judge's report, Landfall editor Lynley Edmeades notes, “there is something bigger here than the often-misunderstood cry that the 'personal is political', where the 'personal' is simply made synonymous with 'political' by virtue of putting the self in a poem or an artwork.”
“This is a personal story that can't be anything but political because of the way the author has so skilfully woven the threads of her story with the story of a people who have been pushed to the limits in a world that requires hyper-productivity with no social security.”
Lynley commends Tina for seeking to delve deeper into these questions, pulling them up by the roots and pushing beyond yet another binary.
“It is one thing to say that we need to address the conditions that cause such high rates of stress. It's much deeper and more imperative to say, instead: we need to address the conditions that cause particular races, genders, sexualities, and classes to suffer from the stress that causes such high rates of cancer. We're in the realms of mortality now, where political rhetoric and the culture wars don't fucking matter: these are the conditions that cause terminal illnesses.”
Tina's winning essay 'Lumpectomy' will be published in Landfall 244, available from 23 November.
Landfall 244 edited by Lynley Edmeades
Cover art by Neil Pardington
For more information about Landfall 244 click here
For a review copy or to arrange an extract or interview, please email Meg Hamilton at email@example.com