From "The Gladiators" section:
Our featured gladiator
A Sir Peter Blake Trust Emerging Leader - 2010, poet, playwright, paediatrician, medical researcher and mum... Renee misses the days she could write happily perched atop her favourite tree in Auckland.
“There’s a pohutakawa beside the duckpond in the Auckland Domain with wide, spreading branches... I used to perch up there with my notebook and move along the branch to catch the sun as the hours ticked by, listening to the conversations of families as they strolled past, or the quacking of the geese as they foraged underneath. Alas, it’s been a while since I had the luxury of spending a day up a tree.” Renee Liang in conversation with Hichki.
As a multidisciplinary artist, Renee writes and performs, has been published in journals and anthologies and has toured three plays. She won the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing in 2012. She also delivers community arts initiatives such as New Kiwi Women Write, writing workshops for migrant women. “I believe that the telling of a story has great power in defining/changing an individual and community, therefore I’m keen to show others how to effectively do this, and then in turn inspire others in their community. A community which knows and values its diverse stories is a strong community.” says Renee.
Describing her creative journey, Renee expresses... "My life is a string of coincidences. I was bullied at work by a professor who I looked up to and had hoped to learn from. I saw that those working with her became either unpleasant themselves, or wrung-out and miserable. By then I was considering leaving medicine altogether, but decided to take a step sideways and spend a year doing a Master of Creative Writing. That year, I wrote a novel, got deeper into the poetry community and started doing theatre. The interest and encouragement I got from peers and mentors in the arts community has since led me into a career in the arts, alongside continuing my work as a paediatrician. Strangely, becoming more 'whole’ has also rejuvenated my love for medicine, and I believe that the skills I’m learning every day from my arts practice also makes me a better doctor. It just goes to show…sometimes the unpleasant people in our lives can force us to listen to ourselves, and take the road less travelled."
Discussing those who inspire her, Renee shares..."I’m starting to learn about governance, so gain a lot from watching the approach of leaders like Helen Clark, and many others. I think artists often dismiss those from business, politics or science – I think we have a lot to teach each other."
She observes: "The creative community in NZ encourages cross pollination between artists and we also seem to have less fear of trying (and failing at, before mastering) new things. I think this results in some wonderful discoveries and unique work." "My most significant theatre work to date has been The Bone Feeder, a play which is based on one of the earliest encounters between Maori and Chinese in this country. My dramatisation and re-imagining of this piece of history was a labour of love which led to my working with a large cast of talented actors, acrobats, musicians and designers – it is an experience which I still treasure and have learnt so much from."
Wishing for a clone, she confesses, "Life just seems to be a continuous juggling act at the moment, with so many deadlines, and many clashing priorities. But it’s like climbing the Great Wall of China (which I did a stretch of once over 10 days): all hard slog and sweat and “why did I get myself into this?” but it’s such a reward when you can look back and see how far you’ve come.”
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