So I've been informed that I have a PTR monopoly on all things Oceania, a region defined by its low population growth, lack of natural resources, and increasing likeliness to be the first continent to go under when the polar ice caps melt.
I guess I'd better fulfill my representative duty and get some of those old sheep jokes out of the way. 'Hey, did you know that this week a movie's opened in New Zealand where mutant sheep take over the world!' 'It's f-en true!' And while we're at it, let's mention : Lord of the Rings, (bahahahaha) damn Aussies, (ahhahahaha) and 'ooh lookie at little you you're all so cute tucked up away in this tiny godforsaken country!' (ha).
So seriously, in the midst of procrastinating for my Contract Law test this Tuesday, I came across news via the excellent local blog Yellow Peril that representatives from the South Asian-New Zealand community met recently to prepare for a national identity conference to be held next year (I must have lost my invite to be on the Executive Principal High Committee in the mail).
The proposed conference is inspired by similar efforts by the Chinese-New Zealand community, who have been running an inter-cultural conference catchily titled Going Bananas. since 2005. Sadly, when I tried to find our more information about the desi event there was not much to find (except for a mention on Singaporean-New Zealander Mok's Yellow Peril). On the other hand, when I looked for similar information about East Asian communities there were official websites of cultural associations, weblogs, and a comparatively large body of government information and studies on the Chinese, Korean and Japanese communities.
Which brings me to my point - notice that my writing skills have led me to make it, ooh about five paragraphs too late- In New Zealand, the Chinese seem to have a monopoly on all things Asian. Unlike in the UK, 'Asian' refers to a person of Chinese origin, or at the very least, someone with 'Oriental' facial features. If you mention the Chinese community even the Average Joe would know about Pansy Wong, our only Member of Parliament of Asian origin, or Lincoln Tan, a New Zealand Herald columnist, or even Wing, the Southpark featured old-lady version of American Idol reject William Hung. Whether these figures are loved, ridiculed, or admired, at the very least they are visible. They signify an emergent Chinese identity in New Zealand.
The South Asian community on the other hand, is very rarely seen in New Zealand, or at least not as a community. It tends to be conceptualised through an individual lens -an enterprising Engineering student here, a theatre production company there, a quietly efficient Governor General (who is Indo-Fijian so is shared with our Pasifika cousins). But as far as a sense of community goes, we are far behind our Asian cousins. It's true, Chinese may be the biggest Asian ethnic group at 44%, but with Indians at 26% and Sri Lankans at 3%, the desi community is catching up in terms of numbers but lags behind as a community bloc.
It's not *exactly* breaking news anymore, but I for one am excited in the ecstatic/slightly passive aggressively jealous way that only other desi admirers (esp. young female ones) can be at the news that Kiran Desai, daughter of Anita Desai, has won the Man Booker Prize for 2006.
Desai's second novel, The Inheritance of Loss, beat out tough competition from a shortlist that excluded Rushdie and included Sarah Waters' The Night Watch (which was the bookmakers' favourite to win), Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men set in Gaddafi's Libya, Edward St.
Now, anyone who's been reading my sporadic comments on PTR lately would know that I always said Italy would win, uh huh?...Er. Right. Well anyway, what a game!!! Even people who just watch soccer because it's World Cup time and the players are much hotter than rugby players (so not me) would have to bow down to the final match itself.
That red-carded head-butt from an amazingly talented player?...the missed penalty goal that almost was?...The tears, the tension, the triumph...Now I really know why it's called the beautiful game.
Go Italy!!! I'm proud to say that *some of my best friends* are Italian so I will temporarily defect from the sadly underrepresented Asian side to cheer along with 'em! :-)
Meanwhile I'm holding my own competition for Most Corrupt World Cup Sponsor, along with awards for Cheesiest, Most Cynical Ad from said Sponsors.
At the mo' the frontrunner for the advertising section is good old Hyundai who managed to link the beautiful biology of human eyesight and a small innocent blonde-haired child to making 'cars for the next generation'. Closely tied to them is Emirates for their Benneton-like connection of an Average Joe white bloke with a group of smiling (they're always such happy people, aren't they) African kids through the 'universal language of football.'
As some important business paper has already thoughtfully pointed out, the real winners of this year's World Cup are the sponsors. So now that all the hoopla's over and life is getting back to normal for those of us who aren't in Rome, I thought we could look at the requisite seedy underside that exists within all gloriously commercialised concepts.
The polite little Indian girl in me wants to scream out 'No, I'm sorry, 'auntie/uncle who I'm not really related to' for writing that toilet-humour title!' But I couldn't really talk about my next multicultural, non-American topic without talking about arses. Because thoughts of arses lead to thoughts of poos and wees. And that's just a part of what bro'Town is all about.
Wha--- town? Poos? Wees? Why? 'Cos we're New Zealanders and that's what we find funny! Seriously (as Meredith Grey would say), though, bro'Town is our very own Simpsons, the coolest animated show I've ever seen and a new cultural phenomenon centred around a different diaspora which has made Auckland the largest Polynesian city in the world (yes, there is more than one diaspora and no, Indians do not have a trademark for that word).
The creation of the Naked Samoans, a group of Pasifika (Pacific Island/Polynesian) actors/comedians/writers/one of them is really hot I know that's not strictly a job but click on the link above and see... bro’Town is NZ's first prime-time animated show.
A modern day fairytale about five Auckland teenagers growing up in the big, bad Auckland suburb of Morningside, bro’Town chronicles the schoolboy misadventures of Vale, Valea, Sione, Mack and Jeff da Maori in a proudly suburban, non-P.C. satire. What makes this show awesome is that not only does it break the stereotypes, it manages to do so by laughing at them. Memorable episodes include 'A Maori at My Table' where Jeff da Maori must go back to his tribe and save their ancestral land from evil Japanese investors, 'Half Caste-Away' where the boys find the half-brown half-white abandoned offspring of a 14-year old white-trash mother and almost give it away to a retarded couple for adoption, and the classic first episode 'Go Home Stay Home', where Valea gets fostered out to a Mr and Mrs Rich-White because of his alcoholic, porn-obsessed dole-bludger father's crap parenting and utters one of the best lines ever brainwashingly taught to a brown boy by a rich white man, 'Capitalism is fun. War is better but you run out of people.'
Firstly, big ups to the redesigners of the minimalist site...looks like our humble ghee-d up roti's turned into a sleek little naan! And welcome DesiItaliana, wish my country was sexy too but we're a bit too gumpy to make desi-ness more lovely than it already is...
Or are we? Have just stumbled on a fabulicious local writer who reminds me of past-life-shame that I am about to delve into for a lame-ass talk I have to give to a bunch of poker-up-their-arse private school girls. See a million years ago, I did something that is sooo high school (two years ago actually...) I wrote a lesbian love story that won a national short story award. And then I (in my first ever taste of media spotlight) denied my inner lesbian by repeatedly assuring the interviewer I was not a lesbian which meant that I had a feature article/TV interview etc. about how I above all things was not, definitely not, gay.
So in many ways I have tried to atone for my previous non-pride. I have bought leather boots and worn them to dangerous places. I have worn sparkly eyeshadow at completely inappropriate times. I have publicly admitted to 'Bootylicious' being my fantasy theme song. But now, it seems, I have found something to complete my penance. She's desi, she's queer, she's a great writer and she's Kiwi! Ka-ching, my no-pride debt repaid. Ladies, gentleman and people of indeterminate gender, I present...Annamarie Jagose.
Before you ask that kind of beauty does only come from a bit of cookies and cream (damn those hotter bicultural beings!)Jagose is German-Indian, while the down-to-earth-ness of her writing and personality mos' def' comes from the quaint little town of Ashburton that she grew up in. Not only is she a Media lecturer at my university, she is also the award winning writer of Slow Water, a novel set on stormy seas on a colonial voyage during which an English clergyman called William Yates embarks on a love affair with a cabin boy. Mmmm I think my girl-crush has stepped up a notch...Slow Water won the national 2004 Montana Book Awards Deutz Medal and the Victorian Premier Award in Australia (ie big deal over here)...
I have spent the past month watching this site grow from a tiny blogspot one to the big, rockin', phat-dripping, massive roti it is today. And I have to say that one of the best things about it is the 'diversity' (sorry, I know, someone's gotta come up with a better word that doesn't conjure up images of token kids group-hugging for a Kodak moment) of views on cultural issues.
But as an immigrant living in a country where the main discourse on race is one of bi-culturalism between Pakeha (Europeans) and Maori (indigenous people), I've recently been wondering why, as post-colonial people living in countries that have all been colonised, there seems to be a gulf between the -and here comes another dreaded d-bomb of an overused word- diaspora and indigenous people in the countries we live in (Maori, Inuits in Canada, Native Americans in the USA).
Right now in New Zealand there's a mainly-Pakeha backlash against Maori rights, similar to the current sentiment to affirmative action in the USA for Native Americans and African Americans. Even in Canada (hi brownfrown!), that nation held as a shining example of multiculturalism with its recognition of Quebecois and Inuit peoples, it seems there's a certain resentful comment about indigenous rights being passed around at dinner parties, or down at the ba-sorry I can't, I have to say pub, or just 'among friends' - "Enough is enough."
In New Zealand the latest instalment in the "Enough is enough" backlash is a disagreement over whether powhiri (Maori welcome ceremony, pronounced po-firr-ee) should be allowed in its traditional form on state occasions, or whether it should be changed to incorporate women, Europeans and other cultures.
What is in its details a small issue has now acquired the strength of a discourse on national identity and multiculturalism. Pita Sharples, co-leader of the Maori Party which was formed in 2004 to protect indigenous rights, says that changing powhiri is tantamount to the 'bastardisation of Maori culture.' Many Pakeha say that Maori should learn to respect other people and update their ways to suit today's values.
Maori culture has a patriarchal hierarchy which means many of its rituals are seen as sexist, while its male ideal of the warrior means that to others its customs promote violence. Anyone who has seen the All Blacks perform the haka will know that I'm talking about - anyone who hasn't they're our national rugby team and the haka is a war chant which most other teams seem to find hilarious as the All Blacks sticks their tongues out (called pukana) and slap their chests etc.
Anyways, for those who haven't been distracted by the thought of hot Polynesian men with rippling abs and short shorts (*cough* Saurav *cough*)...
What I want to ask people reading this post is:
To what extent (if any) should indigenous rights be respected? Should differentiated treatment allow customs and beliefs that are out of touch with contemporary values to be recognised and protected?
Or does integration for first nation peoples mean that they need to update their culture to recognise other ethnicities and cultures such as environemntalist, feminist and LGBT groups?
And furthermore, does this have anything to do with 'us' at all?