Aotearoa New Zealand, March-June, 2020

Zainaa Hilal is the youngest contributor to the new anthology,Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand. Originally from Pakistan, she moved to New Zealand in 2014. Here she talks briefly about her art and life during lockdown.

Your work included in the recently published anthology, Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand, is a pen / ink drawing. Could you tell us a bit about your inspiration for creating this art?

Zainaa: When my mum told me that I could put some art forward for publishing in a book that would talk about unity in New Zealand after March 15, I felt a lot of things. I’ve actually lost a close relative in a similar situation, and so it holds a certain place in my life that I feel strongly about. This art was a representation of what I wished the world could be like – a hopeful, innocent united front, a collective voice, together.

We Are One – Zainaa Hilal

You were 13 in March 2019, and the youngest contributor to this anthology. Are you still drawing or expressing yourself through art? How has your art changed since then?

Zainaa: Almost my whole life I have been doing pencil and pen drawings, I find it an easy way to just… let out emotions and de-stress. Drawing has always been my zen. It’s just an easy way to express everything so freely – it’s something that I can go to.

Five Bottles

Do you recall the first piece of art you ever created? And do you experiment with other kinds of expression?

Zainaa: The first proper piece of art I’ve ever drawn? I couldn’t recall. I’ve drawn countless sketches, doodles, from as long as I can remember. I actually do use other expressions of art. I love to paint – acrylic painting and watercolor are my favourite types. I used to take lessons a few years back, and that’s how my interest was deepened in modes of painting


Has this year, and all the happenings around COVID, impacted your creativity?

Zainaa: If anything, the crazy happenings of COVID have allowed me to have more time for art. I had so much spare time in quarantine, I doodled a lot. It was interesting having so much time on my hands, yet sometimes I was lost for ideas. It was just a matter of when a random idea sparked, or sometimes I could stare at a page for hours.

A Day in France

You came to Aotearoa in 2014. What were some of your first impressions, and how has your relationship to New Zealand evolved?

Zainaa: My relationship with New Zealand has definitely evolved. We moved here in 2014 – it’s been about six years now. It is so different from any other place I have lived – I’m not sure how to describe it. I was quite young when I first moved here, about 7, and now, being 14, I can say I’ve lived half my life here. I can safely say I’m proud to be growing up in New Zealand. It makes me happy to say I’ve lived here.

What other means do you use to express yourself?

Zainaa: I do love to write, actually, and I enjoy reading my writing out – so… public speaking? I enjoy speech writing and presenting, I also do enjoy poetry, but mostly just short, descriptive narratives.

These days, I just draw whenever I can, even if it’s a small doodle before bed.


After spending her first few years in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and USA, Zainaa Hilal moved to New Zealand in 2014. She finds herself lucky to have travelled so much and experienced many different cultures and lifestyles. Zainaa loves looking into different cultures and learning about others backgrounds. She sketches with fine pen mostly.