Going Without: Migrant Mothers, Food, and the Postnatal Ward

I have long been interested in the significance of food for migrants. As a child whose family moved to Aotearoa, New Zealand in the 70s, I remember the singular pursuit of ingredients. The long-grain rice we tried to buy from an importer, the coriander we grew in the garden, my mother purchasing olive oil from the pharmacy (that’s another story), and the trips to Goa which had us return with dried kokum, dried shrimps, Goa sausages (confiscated) chilies and other spices, much to the bemusement of customs. I also remember the longing: for pickles, chevda, samosas and much more.

On a scholarly note, I am also interested in what happens when food (and the people attached to said food) encounter institutions. Whether it’s the sign on the wall in the motel that says ‘no smells thanks’ or public institutions that we expect in an age of consumptive diversity to also accommodate people’s preferences and lifeways. In 1994 I worked on a postnatal ward and became interested in how the public health system accommodated the dietary preferences of diverse populations. Food choices were primarily oriented to the dominant culture, so people often brought in food for their family members. Yet there was only one place where food could be warmed and it was the staff meal room. The different smells led to complaints from staff.

Later, in 2001 when I was researching the experiences of Goan women in New Zealand around birth, it became apparent that food played a crucial role both in settlement and at special occasions. Lorna for example said: “Goan things like moong, godshem and other lentils, millet, tizan, and things like that, you know”. For Rowena, the absence of family meant that she had to prepare her own meals and did not eat anything special. While Greta, had maternal figures taking care of her: “Fenugreek seeds and jaggery and coconut milk [Methi Paez] and she kept giving me that and I found that quite nourishing”. The importance of food extended also beyond postpartum health to inducting the new member of the family into the community at the christening. Flora spoke about how according to Goan tradition, coconut and boiled grams (chickpeas) had to be served. “My aunt was going around to all the Kiwi guests saying …chickpeas are the food of the soil, and coconut is also a food of the soil.”

This brings me to the purpose of this blog post. In my PhD, I spoke with birthing people about their experiences of cultural safety and services. It has taken a while, but from this work, I’ve written a book chapter that is about to be published by Demeter Press.

Abstract

Hospital admission signifies the induction into a distinct patient subculture in Western medical healthcare systems (Yarbrough and Klotz). Clothes, belongings, and identity are relinquished, and autonomy over everyday activities and routines is ceded to health professionals and institutional processes. The dominant mode of biomedicine emphasizes the individual and the physical body, shifting a person from a socially integrated member of a community into an object who receives care. Food structures both our daily lives and life transitions, such as maternity, and is an arena where powerful values and beliefs about being a human are evident. More than sustenance and nutrition, food has social, cultural, and symbolic meanings. Practices relating to food demarcate cultural boundaries of belonging and not belonging on the basis of religion, nation, class, race, ethnicity, and gender (Wright and Annes; Bell and Valentine). Being unable to access one’s own food can result in cultural disadvantages, in which a person is separated from their own cultural context and cannot provide for themselves within an institutional environment (Woods).
Examining the significance of food in the institutional context of health highlights how people are racialized by the foods that they eat and how institutions and staff working within them regulate migrant bodies. This chapter analyses literature related to food and provides an excerpt from a study of migrant maternity in New Zealand. It shows how food habits are shaped by everyday institutional practices, which maintain order and simultaneously impose disciplinary processes on migrant bodies. The preparation of food represents the continuity and affirmation of tradition and culture, a mechanism for promoting wellness within the physical, emotional, and social transitions of birth. Food as an analytic shows how ethnic identity is performative and processual—that is, it reacts and is reacted to by the host culture. I propose that health services can provide care that is more culturally safe by developing a better understanding of the importance of culture and food in constructing, maintaining, and transforming identities and by providing facilities and resources to facilitate food preparation during the perinatal period.

Moving Meals and Migrating Mothers: Culinary cultures, diasporic dishes and familial foodways explores the complex interplay between the important global issues of food, families and migration.
Moving Meals and Migrating Mothers: Culinary cultures, diasporic dishes and familial foodways explores the complex interplay between the important global issues of food, families and migration.

A level playing field? Sport and racism

At the weekend it was my parents’ wedding anniversary. They got married in Dar es Salaam and one of the distinguishing features of their wedding was the hockey stick “guard of honour” that their friends created for them outside the church after the service (my Mum played hockey for Tanzania). The family capability and Goan cultural propensity to excel at sport (take Seraphino Antao the first Kenyan athlete to win a gold medal at the 1962 Commonwealth Games) skipped right past me. Mostly I enjoy the social, political and cultural issues in relation to sport like the national anthems, the medals and the underdog winning. The recent completion of a PhD (yes really) has also given me some confidence and time to begin to explore questions like the neocolonial exploitation of African players by European football clubs and how raw materials in the form of players are sourced, refined and exported for consumption and wealth generation in Europe leaving the African periphery impoverished. But that’s another blogpost. This post is about racism and sport, but I needed to do a geneaological manouevre and trace my own relationship with sport through my experience of being a Goan via East Africa now resident in Aotearo New Zealand. I’ve mapped some of the ways in which sport has been mobilised such as the re-shaping of personhood for colonised peoples and in turn the ways in which western sport has been appropriated by diasporic and marginalised communities as a form of resistance. I then talk about the prevalence of racism in sport, the contributing factors and what can be done.

Photo of Goans in Dar es Salaam via Jo Birkmeyer-submitted to Mervyn A Lobo’s blog 

The establishment of sport in colonial contexts was linked with Western Christian church activity and colonialism. Sports were introduced to meet both the needs of churches and colonial governments in transforming bodies into desirable shapes and capabilities so imperial reform could be undertaken by locals thereby creating physical and moral reform against existing less palatable indigenous norms. Games like cricket and football were intended to reinforce the superiority of colonial culture and transmit a particular moral order and values that were seen lacking in the colonised group such as team spirit, commitment, the sacrifice of individual aspirations to the group, bravery and so forth. Particular versions of masculinity were also being promulgated in a context where many Asian men were seen as effeminate.

In the diaspora, Goans formed clubs and institutions replicating village ties and loyalties back home which helped to allay loneliness, cultural alienation and the challenges of navigating a new country. In 1921 it was estimated that almost half a million Goans lived in Goa, Dama and Diu and that up to 200,000 Goans lived in British India, East Africa or Mesopotamia (James Mills, 2002). One quarter of that number lived in Bombay. Expatriate sports confirmed ties with the homeland, created a sense of community and provided an oasis from the demands of navigating belonging in racially stratified communities. Every Saturday after mass at the Holy Family Cathedral in Nairobi my parents would make their way with us to the Railway Goan Institute founded in 1909 which later became the Railway Institute in 1967. I have great memories of hurtling around (we seemed to do a lot of running along those wooden floors) and being spoiled rotten by my parent’s friends who would provide us with bottomless supplies of coke and crisps. Goans in Kenya also formed other clubs like The Goan Institute Mombasa in 1901, Goan Institute Nairobi in 1905 and the Goan Gymkhana in 1936 with sports an important focus of diasporic life.

Closer to where I live now in New Zealand, Indians in Wellington formed their own hockey team in 1936, which also marked the year that the Auckland Indian Sports Club (AISC) was established.

Photo reproduced with permission from Te Ara. Original article: Nancy Swarbrick. ‘Indians’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Sep-11
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/indians/5/5

Many other communities also made sport a focus of their activities, for example the New Zealand Chinese Association Annual Sports Tournament (AKA Easter Tournament) started in 1947 and runs every Easter Weekend. It consists of a sports tournament and cultural event for Chinese members and competitive sports like basketball, volley ball, touch rugby, netball, lawn bowls and golf are enjoyed. Similarly pan-ethnic events like the Ethnic Soccer Cup at the Auckland International Cultural festival are eagerly awaited and full of good natured fun and tough competition.

Photo by the Localist

Sport seemingly offers a transcendent space, where cohesion and connection is possible not only within and across diasporic communities, but also across dominant and minority communities. A phrase bandied around frequently last year was the way in which hosting the Rugby World cup in New Zealand “brought us together as a nation”.  Who of us will ever forget the ferocious and irrepressible passion of the Tongan community in New Zealand supporting their team? I love the ideal that sport can be a place where people with diverse interests, histories and values can be unified in one setting. I’ve watched with growing feelings of warmth the ways in which our Pacific players have infused “the game” of rugby with flair and energy and increased the ratio of tattoos, dreadlocks and eye-liner.

This illusion that sport can be a connecting force is challenged in Sara Ahmed‘s critique of the “happy” multicultural film Bend it Like Beckham. Directed by Kenyan-born, Punjabi British filmmaker Gurinder Chadha, Ahmed suggests that the central message of the film is that “the would-be- citizen who embraces the national game is rewarded with happiness”. The feel good vibe of this film ignores the negative affects surrounding racism and unproblematically represents visibly different migrants as patriarchal, closed, traditional, fixed and unchanging. White people can be inspired and warmed by Jess’ migrant success, as she bends the ball (a metaphor for disrupting cultural barriers) without needing to feel guilty about racism. The film plays into the notion that success is the reward for integration and is also proof that racism can be overcome.

My fantasy that the arrival of the first Asian All Black will give Asians more street cred and admiration has taken a battering with the racist responses to the “Linsanity” phenomenon. Jeremy Lin, the Asian American son of Taiwanese immigrants and graduate of Harvard has experienced spectacular NBA basketball success but the headline “Chink in the Armor,” or the tweet by Jason Whitlock referring to “two inches of pain” have deeply hurt many Asian Americans. Understandable, given the limited representation of Asian Americans in mainstream media and because the blatant racism provided a barometer reading of how this group are viewed in a racially charged landscape. But as Long, Tongue, Spracklen and others have noted, we live in a racist society so why should there not be racism in sport? Racist taunts and chants at matches and the throwing of banana skins at players have been supplemented by attacks via social media adding a new viciousness. A Welsh student was recently been imprisoned for using twitter to spread racist rants about acritically ill footballer Fabrice Muamba and locally, unhappy fans took to twitter to racially denigrate Blues coach Pat Lam.

Sport media coverage contributes to inequity by not reflecting social and cultural diversity. The MARS – Media against racism in sport programme– developed by The Council of Europe and the European Union recognises the following inequalities in representation in sports news stories:

  • Gender under-representation -where women comprise only one quarter of all stories despite making up half the population.
  • Migrants making up around 10% of the EU population but representing less than 5% of the main actors in the news in Europe.
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people representing roughly 6% of the population of the United Kingdom but accounting for less than 1% of the population seen on TV.
  • 20% of the British population has an impairment or disability but less than 1% are represented on British TV.

These inequalities in sports media coverage reflect broader societal inequalities. The New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s annual review of race relations Tūi Tūi Tuituiā, Race Relations in 2011 released in March 2012 noted a “continuing degree of racial prejudice, significant racial inequalities, and the exclusion of minorities from full participation in all aspects of society”. The Commission identified racial prejudice in the form of: “negative attitudes to the Treaty, to indigenous rights, to Māori, Pacific peoples, Asians, migrants and refugees”. The report noted that these prejudices were implicated in discrimination, marginalisation, and inequalities, ultimately proving a barrier to the realisation of the social and economic benefits of diversity.

The racist soup of Pakeha media culture not only excludes particular groups but it also reproduces pathological, deficient and destructive representations of groups that are already discrimiinated against and marginalised. Take the “common sense” racism of Paul Henry, Michael Laws and Paul Holmes who all compete for New Zealand’s top racist.Take the comments by the former All Black and World cup Rugby Ambassador Andy Haden, who referred to a “three darkies”selection policy by rugby franchise The Crusaders. When Haden made an apology it was “to anyone who was offended” by the comments. He received a smack on the hand with a wet hanky from our Prime Minister John Key despite the outrage and I don’t think he had to resign. Key defended Haden’s actions as having a precedent in Paul Holmes‘ “cheeky darkie” comments in 2003. The gutless and useless Broadcasting Standards Authority refused to uphold 10 complaints over the  comments on Radio station Newstalk ZB. They acknowledged that the comments went beyond the limits of acceptability and breached broadcast standards, but they were happy that the actions taken internally by broadcaster were adequate. Thank goodness for writers with a conscience like Tapu Misa who is my only reason for continuing to purchase the morning newspaper and the long missed Karlo Mila from the Dom Post who can still remind us through her poetry that words scar.

Poster by Dudley Benson (2012)

Where there is power, there is resistance (Thanks Foucault). Racism (and anti-Semitism) in sport have also provided a space for protest and resistance. American sprinters Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman who were the only two Jews on the USA Olympic team, were pulled from their relay team on the day of the competition in the 1936 Berlin Olympics,. There was speculation that the American Olympic committee did not want two Jews to win gold medals in the context of Nazi Germany and Hitler’s Aryan pride. These are the same games where Jesse Owens won four gold medals.  Fast forward to the 1968 Olympics when Tommy Smith and John Carlos powerfully raised their fists on the podium in a Black power salute. The symbolism of this gesture referenced the black American community (black gloves); black American poverty (black socks, no shoes), black American lynching (Smith wore a scarf and Carlos a bead necklace).

Source Jonny Weeks:The Guardian

Closer to home, look at the stand many New Zealanders took against the Springbok rugby tour of 1981. 150,000 people took part in over 200 demonstrations in 28 centres and 1500 people were charged with protest related offences. The protests were in response to New Zealand opposition to the apartheid and segregation practiced in South Africa. These apartheid policies had impacted on team selection for the All Blacks, and Māori players had been excluded from touring South Africa by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU) until 1970. I take my inspiration from this event that “New Zealanders” might take their history into account and challenge the unacceptable comments against Pat Lam and show leadership over such behaviour.

So what are we to do about racism in sport? How can we use the values of sport, ostensibly fairness, teamwork, a fair go, equal opportunity, respect and care for each other to help us create a real level playing field, locally and globally? We can protest the sponsorship of the London Olympics by Dow (Union Carbide was merged into Dow and responsible for the tragedy at Bhopal not least 25,000 deaths and much much suffering). We can ask much more of our junk food media and not consume it as Jennifer Sybel suggests.  We can ask that the groups in our communities that are under-represented (disabled, women, LGBTQ, visibly different) get a fairer go and that  stories that purport to represent them contribute positively to our cultural and social diversity. We can take more responsibility for the actions of racist tweeters and taunters and recognise their actions come from consuming the same junk food media that we do. Rather than individualising their behaviour we can ask questions about what kind of playing field we have created and whether we want to put any effort into creating an alternative.

Illustration by Jim Sillavan for the Guardian

 

 

All of me meets here, an alchemy of parts – Negotiating my identities in New Zealand

Originally published in:  DeSouza, R. (2011). ‘All of me meets here, an alchemy of parts’ – Negotiating my identities in New Zealand. In P. Voci & J. Leckie (Eds.), Localizing Asia in Aotearoa (pp. 231-245). Wellington: Dunmore Publishing.

He could not see that i could be both … The body in front of him was already inscribed within the gendered social relations of the colonial sandwich. i could not just ‘be’. I had to name an identity, no matter that this naming rendered invisible all the other identities of gender, caste, religion, linguistic group, generation (Brah, 1996, p. 3).

Introduction

The title of this chapter comes from a poem by Chris Abani (2000) whom I met many years ago at the Poetics of exile conference. This line from the poem captures the intention of this chapter, to bring parts of myself together. I am often asked the question ‘where are you from?’ Depending on the person asking, it can imply that I have come from somewhere else, not here; that I am visibly and noticeably different; and sometimes reflects a desire on the part of the person asking to either connect, name or categorize. For the sake of economy, choosing one identity and keeping things simple inevitably backfires. answering Tanzania, the country of my birth, and that of my parents, or Goa, India, the place of my ancestors, results in more questions. The question has different nuances in the place of my ancestors and in the place where I choose to live: Aotearoa/New Zealand. Being asked where one is from more easily translates to ‘whom do you belong to?’ and the reference points are intimate, connecting me to a village and to a family. In Māori contexts, similar notions of belonging to place and people are invoked, where intimacy and connection rather than categorization are emphasized. such a question highlights issues of identity, difference and belonging. The process of active negotiation of identities in relation to oneself is the focus of my chapter. I centre on a little-known minority group within a larger indian umbrella identity – the Goan diaspora living in New Zealand. My aim is to provide a complex answer to the question of where I am from and, in doing so, provide a platform for further scholarship about the Goan diaspora in New Zealand.

 

Are we there yet?

This piece was originally published at Tangatawhenua.com http://news.tangatawhenua.com/archives/14051

On October 3rd 2011 as part of the series: Are we there yet? These articles are being written as a prelude to the election in November, and focus on the ‘wish list’ of Generation Xers; their hopes, dreams, aspirations and vision for New Zealand society.

I have two enduring memories of arriving in New Zealand with my family in June 1975. On the drive to our new home from Mangere, I was stuck by two sights, the first were the abundant citrus trees, promising sweetness and growth in this new life and the second, the Blockhouse Bay Foodtown supermarket where we shopped for our first meal before it closed (and no I don’t remember what that was!).

The supermarket too represented abundance but the shopping trip was a portent of the self-reliance my family would need to develop to survive in this country. A marked contrast to the hospitality of home cooking that we might have expected as newcomers from the other side of the world. Later, I found out that Tom Ah Chee a New Zealand-born Chinese, was one of the three small business owners to invest in the Foodtown, New Zealand’s first American-style supermarket.

The neoliberal narrative of migration is that my family came to New Zealand (like other migrants) for a better life. Another explanation is that we were pulled to New Zealand as a result of the unevenness of life chances created by colonial capitalism. As South Asians in East Africa we were what Avtar Brah calls the filling in the colonial sandwich. Occupying a precarious uneasy place that had neither the imperial support of the British coloniser nor the entitled weight of indigeneity. Migration to New Zealand offered an escape from the colonial sandwich to maybe a liberal pizza, a place of equal footing, a safe haven, replete with economic and academic opportunities. “New Zealand has no ‘colour bar’” I remember my Mother proudly telling friends. Unfortunately, like the settler colony we’d left, the dynamic was the same but the nuances were different. In East Africa Asians had a symbiotic relationship with Africans and were understood (a checklist of some of the popular foods in Kenya, shows how our culinary destinies were interwoven despite the imminent exclusionary nationalist future: kachumbar, chapati, pilau, chai, samosa to name a few). In New Zealand, food provided an entry point in a different way. I sold Maori cookbooks to raise funds for the Hoani Waititi marae in Henderson.

The migrant’s new life is characterised by a delicate dance between preservation and hope. Treasuring a past that might never be retrieved while hoping to succeed and make good on the sacrifices that have been incurred. But other kinds of reconciliation are also necessary; requiring that migrants develop what Ghassan Hage calls an ethical relationship with the history of colonial capitalism/colonisation in which they are implicated. The narrative of migration as an individual choice framed by the desire for betterment must be considered against the collusive role of migrants in usurping the indigenous. As must being subsumed into larger stories of ethnic communities as uninvited foreign guests, in need of careful management and modernisation so as not to lower the cultural standards of the receiving society (“our way of life”).

Reckoning with a colonial history requires coming to terms with New Zealand’s history of racism. Knowing that anti-Chinese and anti-Indian sentiment has been evident since the arrival of these groups in the 1800s, where they represented the largest groups of migrants and refugees, and were viewed as threats to jobs, morals and sexuality. Chinese particularly were the targets of exclusionary immigration legislation through the 1881 Chinese Immigration Act, which exacted a poll tax of £10 from all Chinese arriving in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Indians, as British subjects were not exempt from hostility nor restrictive legislative practices despite their status. The 1899 Immigration Restriction Act restricted Indian and other Asian immigration and the formation of the White New Zealand League, in 1926 epitomised this hostility. The latter formed to counter the potential for contamination of bloodline, values and lifestyle posed by Chinese and Indian men. The introduction of the 1920 ‘permit system’ reflected demands for increasing prohibitions and excluding and/or repatriating Asian migrants.

The end of an unofficial White New Zealand migration policy was not brought about by a desire for equity or fairness. Economics was central to this policy shift, and the 1986 review of immigration was a response to a ‘brain drain’ and decreased immigration to New Zealand. Consequently migrant selection shifted from preferred source countries (largely European) to being skills based in the Immigration Act of 1987, whereby a points system was introduced. The introduction of the Business Immigration Policy and  ‘Family reunification’ and ‘Humanitarian/refugee’ categories plus the growth of a thriving export education market consolidated this long-term trend to diversity. Consequently Asians grew in number and became more visible and central to the national economy and the number of people from Middle Eastern, Latin American and African communities (MELAA) increased. However, the residue of the old attitudes and fears remains, migrants and refugees are held with great ambivalence- disadvantaged in the employment stakes but welcomed for the spice and innovation their presence adds.

I began this piece by talking about my family’s welcome to New Zealand through consumer capitalism at Foodtown. On reflection, the supermarket is an apt metaphor for migration, both for the visibility and promise of its products and for the invisibility of its processes. Neoliberal narratives of individualism and ‘choice’ render invisible both the dispossession of the local and indigenous and the economic imbalance necessary for the movement of goods and people to the West in order for capitalism to flourish. Yet if these two aspects of migration were made visible, in the same way that more ethical consumptive practices are becoming a feature of contemporary life then other kinds of relationships might be made possible. In the case of ethnic communities, direct negotiation with Maori for a space where indigenous Maori claims for tino rangatiratanga, sovereignty and authority are supported while the mana of newcomers to Aotearoa is upheld hold promise.

So, I close this piece with an alternative story of welcome. Two years ago we had a Refugee conference at AUT University, where Tainui, Refugee Services and a group of refugees talked about the powhiri process they had instituted as part of the orientation of newly resettled refugees in Hamilton. Their presentation included a powhiri during which a refugee participant delivered his mihi in Swahili. Much to his astonishment when he came to sing his Swahili waiata I joined in. It was a moving experience. In his korero he said that the original powhiri in Hamilton had helped him to stand tall and regain his mana after the dehumanising experiences of his refugee journey. On a larger scale, Maori King Tuheitia, invited ethnic communities members to a special powhiri during the 5th Koroneihana (Coronation) celebration at Turangawaewae marae in August this year. Isn’t this the kind of Aotearoa we want? Where standing tall is possible for all of us?

Ruth DeSouza
Are we there yet? Contributor


Footnote

The process of direct negotiation with Maori has already begun and there are many resources available.

A view from a Goan in Aotearoa/New Zealand

The ocean is what we have in common: Relationships between indigenous and migrant people.

This piece was previously published in the Goanet Reader: Mon, 30 Nov 2009

Legend has it that Lord Parashuram (Lord Vishnu’s sixth incarnation) shot an arrow into the Arabian Sea from a mountain peak. The arrow hit Baannaavali (Benaulim) and made the sea recede, reclaiming the land of Goa. A similar story about land being fished from the sea by a God is told in Aotearoa, New Zealand, where Maui dropped his magic fish hook over the side of his boat (waka) in the Pacific Ocean and pulled up Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui), the North Island of New Zealand.

The first story comes from the place of my ancestors, Goa, in India and the second story comes from the place I now call home, Aotearoa, New Zealand. Both stories highlight the divine origins of these lands and the significance of the sea, as my friend Karlo Mila says “The ocean is another source of sustenance, connection and identity…. It is the all encompassing and inclusive metaphor of the sea. No matter how much we try to divide her up and mark her territory, she eludes us with her ever-moving expansiveness. The ocean is what we have in common.”

This piece for Goanet Reader is an attempt to create some engagement and discussion among the Goan diaspora about the relationships we have with indigenous and settler communities in the countries we have migrated to, and to ask, what our responsibilities and positions are as a group implicated in colonial processes?

My life has been shaped by three versions of colonialism: German, Portuguese and British, and continues to be shaped by colonialism’s continuing effects in the white settler nation of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Diasporic Goans have frequently occupied what Pamila Gupta calls positions of “disquiet” or uneasiness within various colonial hierarchies. For me, this has involved trying to understand what being a Goan means, far away from Goa and to understand the impact of colonisation.

I was born in Tanzania, brought up in Kenya and am now resident of Aotearoa/New Zealand with a commitment to social justice and decolonising projects. What disquieting position do I occupy here?

Both sets of my grandparents migrated to Tanganyika in the early part of the 20th Century. Tanganyika was a German colony from 1880 to 1919, which became a British trust territory from 1919 to 1961. Tanganyika became Tanzania after forming a union with Zanzibar in 1964.

On my father’s side, my great-grandfather and grandfather had already worked in Burma because of the lack of employment opportunities in Goa. Then when my grandfather lost his job in the Great Depression, he took the opportunity to go to Tanzania and work.

Indians had been trading with Africa as far back as the first century AD. The British indentured labour scheme was operational and had replaced slave labour as a mechanism for accessing cheap and reliable labour for plantations and railway construction, contributing to the development of the Indian diaspora in the 19th and 20th century.

Large-scale migrations of Indians to Africa began with the construction of the great railway from Mombasa to Lake Victoria in Uganda in the late nineteenth century. Indians were recruited to run the railways after they were built, with Goans coming to dominate the colonial civil services.

Some 15,000 of the 16,000 men that worked on the railroads were Indian, recruited for their work ethic and competitiveness. Sadly, a quarter of them returned to India either dead or disabled. Asians who made up one percent of the total population originated from the Gujarat, Kutch, and Kathiawar regions of western India, Goa and Punjab and played significant roles as middlemen and skilled labourers in colonial Tanganyika.

During the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964, over 10,000 Asians were forced to migrate to the mainland as a result of violent attacks (also directed at Arabs), with many moving to Dar es Salaam. In the 1970s over 50,000 Asians left Tanzania.

President Nyerere issued the Arusha Declaration in February 1967, which called for egalitarianism, socialism, and self-reliance. He introduced a form of African socialism termed Ujamaa (“pulling together”). Factories and plantations were nationalized, and major investments were made in primary schools and health care.

My parents migrated to Kenya in 1966. The newly independent East African countries of Tanzania (1961), Uganda (1962), and Kenya (1963) moved toward Africanising their economies post-independence which led to many Asians finding themselves surplus to requirements and resulting in many Asians leaving East Africa, a period known as the ‘Exodus’.

A major crisis loomed for United Kingdom Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s government with legislation rushed through to prevent the entry into Britain of immigrants from East Africa. The Immigration Act of 1968 deprived Kenyan Asians of their automatic right to British citizenship and was retroactive, meaning that it deprived them of an already existing right.

Murad Rayani argues that the vulnerability of Asians was compounded by the ambiguity of their relationship with the sub-continent, and with Britain whose subjects Asians had become when brought to East Africa.

Enoch Powell’s now infamous speech followed where he asserted that letting immigrants into Britain would lead to “rivers of blood” flowing down British streets. The Immigration Act of 1971 further restricted citizenship to subjects of the Commonwealth who could trace their ancestry to the United Kingdom.

In 1972 Idi Amin gave Uganda’s 75,000 Asians 90 days to leave. My parents decided to migrate to New Zealand in 1975.

While ‘Asians’ (South Asians) were discriminated against in relationship to the British, they were relatively privileged in relationship to indigenous Africans. As Pamila Gupta says, Goans were viewed with uncertainty by both colonisers and the colonised. Yet, the Kenyan freedom struggle was supported by many Asians such as lawyers like A. Kapila and J.M. Nazareth, who represented detained people without trial provisions during the Mau Mau movement. Others like Pio Gama Pinto fought for Kenya’s freedom, and was assassinated. Joseph Zuzarte whose mother was Masai and father was from Goa rose to become Kenya’s Vice-President. There was Jawaharlal Rodrigues, a journalist and pro-independence fighter and many many more. In 1914, an East African Indian National Congress was established to encourage joint action with the indigenous African community against colonial powers.

In the two migrations I have described, Goans occupied a precarious position and much has been documented about this in the African context. However, what precarious place do Goans occupy now especially in white settler societies?

Sherene Razack describes a white settler society as: ” … one established by Europeans on non-European soil. Its origins lie in the dispossession and near extermination of Indigenous populations by the conquering Europeans. As it evolves, a white settler society continues to be structured by a racial hierarchy. In the national mythologies of such societies, it is believed that white people came first and that it is they who principally developed the land; Aboriginal peoples are presumed to be mostly dead or assimilated. European settlers thus become the original inhabitants and the group most entitled to the fruits of citizenship. A quintessential feature of white settler mythologies is therefore, the disavowal of conquest, genocide, slavery, and the exploitation of the labour of peoples of colour.”

I’d like to explore this issue in the context of Aotearoa/New Zealand where identities are hierarchically divided into three main social groups categories. First in the hierarchy are Pakeha New Zealanders or settlers of Anglo-Celtic background. The first European to arrive was Tasman in 1642, followed by Cook in 1769 with organised settlement following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The second group are Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand who are thought to have arrived from Hawaiki around 1300 AD and originated from South-East Asia. The third group are “migrants” visibly different Pacific Islanders or Asians make the largest groups within this category with growing numbers of Middle Eastern, Latin American and African communities. This latter group are not the first group that come to mind when the category of New Zealander is evoked and they are more likely to be thought of as “new” New Zealanders (especially Asians).

Increasingly, indigenous rights and increased migration from non-source countries have been seen as a threat to the white origins of the nation. While, the Maori translation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi may be acknowledged as the founding document of Aotearoa/New Zealand and enshrined in health and social policy, the extent to which policy ameliorates the harmful effects of colonisation remain minimal.

This can be seen in my field of health, where Maori ill health is directly correlated with colonisation. Maori nurses like Aroha Webby suggest that the Articles of the Treaty have been unfulfilled and the overall objective of the Treaty to protect Maori well-being therefore breached. This is evidenced in Article Two of the Treaty which guarantees tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) for Maori collectively and Article Three which guarantees equality and equity between Maori and other New Zealanders.

However, Maori don’t have autonomy in health policy and care delivery, and the disparities between Maori and non-Maori health status, point to neither equality nor equity being achieved for Maori. In addition, colonisation has led to the marginalising and dismantling of Maori mechanisms and processes for healing, educating, making laws, negotiating and meeting the everyday needs of whanau (family) and individuals.

So in addition to experiencing barriers to access and inclusion, Maori face threats to their sovereignty and self-determination. Issues such as legal ownership of resources, specific property rights and fiscal compensation are fundamental to Maori well being. Thus, the Treaty as a founding document has been poorly understood and adhered to by Pakeha or white settlers, in terms of recognising Maori sovereignty and land ownership.

Allen Bartley says that inter-cultural relationships have been traditionally shaped by New Zealand’s historical reliance on the United Kingdom and Ireland, leading to the foregrounding of Anglo-centric concerns. Discourses of a unified nation have been predicated on a core Pakeha New Zealand cultural group, with other groups existing outside the core such as Maori and migrants.

This monoculturalism began to be challenged by the increased prominence of Maori concerns during the 1970s over indigenous rights and the Treaty of Waitangi. The perception of a benign colonial history of New Zealand — an imperial exception to harsh rule — supplanted with a growing understanding that the Crown policies that were implemented with colonisation were not there to protect Maori interests despite the mythology of the unified nation with the best race relations in the world that attracted my family to New Zealand to settle.

So while countries such as Canada and Australia were developing multicultural policies, New Zealand was debating issues of indigeneity and the relationship with tangata whenua (Maori). More recently people from ethnic backgrounds have been asking whether a bicultural framework can contain multi-cultural aspirations. New Zealand has not developed a local response to cultural diversity (multiculturalism) that complements the bicultural (Maori and Pakeha) and Treaty of Waitangi initiatives that have occurred. However, many are worried that a multicultural agenda is a mechanism for silencing Maori and placating mainstream New Zealanders.

So is there a place/space for Goans in New Zealand? Or are we again occupying a disquieting space/place? According to Jacqui Leckie, one of the first Indians to arrive in New Zealand in 1853 was a Goan nicknamed ‘Black Peter’. Small numbers of Indians had been arriving since the 1800s, Lascars (Indian seamen) and Sepoys (Indian soldiers) arrived after deserting their British East India Company ships in the late 1800s.

The Indians that followed mainly came from Gujarat and Punjab, areas exposed to economic emigration. Indians were considered British subjects and could enter New Zealand freely until the Immigration Restriction Act (1899) came into being. Migration increased until 1920, when the New Zealand Government introduced restrictions under a “permit system”.

Later, in 1926, The White New Zealand League was formed as concern grew about the apparent threat that Chinese and Indian men appeared to present in terms of miscegenation and alien values and lifestyle. Discrimination against Indians took the form of being prevented from joining associations and accessing amenities such as barbers and movie theatres.

By 1945, families (mostly of shopkeepers and fruiterers) were getting established, and marriages of second-generation New Zealand Indians occurring. The profile of Indians changed after 1980, from the dominance of people born in or descended from Gujarat and Punjab. Indians began coming from Fiji, Africa, Malaysia, the Caribbean, North America, the United Kingdom and Western Europe.

Migrants are implicated in the ongoing colonial practices of the state and as Damien Riggs says the imposition of both colonisers and other migrants onto land traditionally owned by Maori maintains Maori disadvantage at the same time that economic, social and political advantage accrues to non-Maori.

But my friend Kumanan Rasanathan says that our accountabilities are different: “Some argue that we are on the Pakeha or coloniser side. Well I know I’m not Pakeha. I have a very specific knowledge of my own whakapapa, culture and ethnic identity and it’s not akeha. It also stretches the imagination to suggest we are part of the colonising culture, given that it’s not our cultural norms and institutions which dominate this country” (Rasanathan, 2005, p. 2).

Typically indigenous and migrant communities have been set up in opposition to one another as competitors for resources and recognition, which actually disguises the real issue which is monoculturalism, as Danny Butt suggests. My friend Donna Cormack adds that this construction of competing Others is a key technique in the (re)production of whiteness.

My conclusion is that until there is redress and justice for Maori as the indigenous people of New Zealand, there won’t be a place/space for me.

As Damien Riggs points out, the colonising intentions of Pakeha people continues as seen in the contemporary debates over Maori property rights of the foreshore and seabed which contradict the Treaty and highlight how Maori sovereignty remains denied or challenged by Pakeha.

My well being and belonging are tied up with that of Maori. Maori have paved the way for others to be here in Aotearoa/New Zealand, yet have a unique status that distinguishes them from migrant and settler groups. After all I can go to Goa to access my own culture but the only place for Maori is Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Increasingly, the longer I’ve lived in Aotearoa/New Zealand and spent time with Maori, the more I’ve begun to understand and value the basis of Maori relationships with the various other social groups living here as being underpinned by manaakitanga (hospitality), a concept that creates the possibility for creating a just society. Understanding and supporting Treaty of Waitangi claims for redress and Maori self-determination (tino rangatiratanga) allows for the possibility for the development of a social space that is better for all of us.

Shifting Out the Sweetness: Migrant Motherhood in New Zealand

DeSouza, R. (2007). Sifting out the sweetness: Migrant motherhood in New Zealand. In P. Liamputtong (Ed.), Reproduction, Childbearing and Motherhood: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (pp. 239-251). New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Abstract

Migration leads to transformation, willingly or unwillingly, for both the migrant and the receiving society. The changes that result can be superficial or visible; for example, cuisine or more subtle and private, such as identities. In considering motherhood in a new country, women are challenged with an opportunity to reshape their identity, from viewing their culture as static with fixed boundaries and members to fluid, pliable, negotiated and renegotiated through interactions with others. The pluralising of identities that accompanies migrant motherhood is brought to the fore with migrant women having to sift and reclaim aspects of culture that may have been lost, preserve memories of cultural practices, transmit, maintain or discard traditional perinatal practices and  choose new practices. In addition, there may be old and new authority figures in the shape of midwives or mothers to appease. This chapter provides an overview of how women originating from Goa, India who had babies in New Zealand actively considered their past, present and future in terms of cultural maintenance and reclamation during the perinatal period. The history of Goan colonisation as a catalyst for dispersal had already led to the modification of cultural practices. The development of plural identities and the strategic utilization of cultural resources new and old are examined, as is the potential to apply notions of cultural safety to migrant health. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications of plural identities for health services and workforce development in New Zealand.

Introduction

At no other time in their lives do women get bombarded and overwhelmed with more information and advice, which is frequently unsolicited, as when they are pregnant and have babies. As a nurse working on a post-natal ward many years ago, I remember meeting a vibrant and loving couple, who said their strategy for managing the mountain of advice, was to “sift out the sweetness.” This sifting process is doubly significant for migrant women who have a baby in a new country. They must sift between their own cultural practices and those of the receiving communities. For many, it involves reclaiming long forgotten practices especially if they are separated from their traditional knowledge sources. In turn, there is an opportunity for receiving societies and their systems to sift through their practices and consider ones brought by immigrants to see if there are opportunities for improvement and innovation.

This chapter focuses on a study of women from the Goan/Indian community in Auckland, New Zealand and discusses how women manage the dual transition of motherhood and migration while separated from networks and supports. A brief history of New Zealand demographics, migration and policy is given, followed by an overview of Goan migration. A description of the study that took place follows including the theoretical standpoint and social and cultural context. The findings of the study are then discussed, focusing on how women negotiated their cultural identities. The chapter concludes with an overview of implications for social care and health professionals.

The ultimate engagement of life: Being mentally healthy

Published in (2007) Asian Magazine, 4.

I came across a wonderful definition of health by Jesse Williams in 1928 the other day in a book that I was reading. Williams defines health as being “the optimal condition of being that allows for the ultimate engagement of life.” To me this is what being healthy is about, being in the best condition to fully take part in life. I have had a long passion in the issue of migration and settlement and in particular the impact on health and specifically mental health. We know that migration is a risky business that also has the potential to transform, so how can we maintain our mental health and go beyond maintenance to optimal health and engaging fully with life? What are the factors that help or hinder being ultimately engaged with life and what can we do about them? In this article I’d like to share my professional, personal and research findings with you from work I did with Goan women living in Auckland some years ago [1].

Migration offers the potential of a new and better life, otherwise why would anyone migrate for a worse life? Yet sometimes this is what unexpectedly happens. We are so focussed on the wonderful future and the leaving, but not so much on the arrival. Without our usual “soft places to fall” as Dr Phil terms it, our support networks, our fulfilling work, migrants can end up with migrant’s remorse!

It was the first time we had been on our own before, in Bombay you’ve always got family to help you and you’ve got everything ready made, so you never know what hardship is until you come here (Flora).

When there is a big gap between our hopes and expectations and the reality the disillusionment can be too much to bear. When the job that is going to be the foundation of the new life doesn’t materialise and the income doesn’t match the sacrifices, it can seem like things are going down hill fast. There is a cumulative impact of all these disappointments that can result in feeling overwhelmed and worn out. So when do ups and downs become something you should pay attention to? In my experience, it is best to ask for help from those around you when you feel like you are not coping and managing as well as you would like to be or know that you usually can. Help-seeking is something that many of us find difficult to do. Whether it is pride or the shame of admitting we cannot manage on our own. What I know for sure though is that when we have exhausted our own resources we should ask for help because things don’t tend to get better by themselves and sometimes they get worse when we do nothing. So start by talking to people that you trust, family or friends and keep talking and asking until you get what you need. If you have a faith community tap into its resources. Talk to your General Practitioner and ask for referral to a counsellor or mental health service. I remember talking to a man with a gambling problem that had become depressed, he said “what is the point of going to talk about my problems, I need financial help!” The answer is that there are a range of things that have contributed to how you feel and equally there are a range of things that will help, from going for a walk to talking to someone to getting budgetary advice. There is not going to be just one magical solution.

So what if you are reading this and thinking, I am fine, I just get down sometimes. Here are four strategies that Goan women used to help them maintain their mental health.

Developing a new support network New Zealand researchers [2] have found that support is one of four important factors for successful settlement. Support makes coping with daily living, acquiring language and employment (the three other factors) easier to acquire. Support also helps you manage stress by reducing how big you see the stress and helping to reduce the severity of your reaction to it [3]. Participants in my research study found that having contact with family, friends and other migrants was crucial and that by volunteering, joining their faith community and having access to support through e-mail the stresses of migration and settlement were minimised. It is important to make sure that you connect with people outside your faith or ethnic group too.

Having a “can do” attitude The term ‘pioneer spirit’ is often used to refer to migrants. The attitude of coping with things in the present because they will get better in the future if you make it work is part of the migrant dream. T some degree pragmatism and philosophical acceptance are necessary for survival and essential:

You just couldn’t pick a flight and go, you’ve resigned your job, you’ve spent half your savings to come here and you know there’s no turning back so you have to make the most of this. So it’s like there’s no turning back, but you think, ‘God what have I done’ (Flora).

As Arisaka says [4] “This almost non-negotiable drive for upward mobility requires diligent assimilation. Self-pity, victim consciousness, and separationist self-consciousness are deadly to the process towards success. Not only are they excessively self-indulgent, but they are also a waste of time and energy, and therefore not allowed”. I think that this can also be a trap and that again it is important to ask for help when you need it. You don’t get extra points at the end of your life for having done it the hard way!

Learning There are two ways of learning that assist with settlement one is the  ‘culture learning approach’ where you adapt  by overcoming every day cross-cultural problems by learning new culture specific skills that assist you to navigate the new cultural environment [5]and the other is by inoculation or anticipatory preparation [6, 7] which helps the transition experience , where a previous visit or some similar kind of preparation where you gain culturally specific knowledge and skills prior to migration can be a great help.

Lastly, maintaining cultural links was used to make sense of the migration and settlement experience and maintaining wellbeing. The loss and separation that can occur with migration can be lessened to some degree by holding on to familiar and trusted values and keeping ties [8]. Keeping a connection with ‘the familiar’ helps lessen the dislocation and challenges that resulted from being in ‘the unfamiliar”. This can be done by attending community events or even going back to the place of origin, for the benefit of children as well:

It’s important not to get carried away by the western thing, to keep taking them back to their roots if you can afford it because I think that priority has really made the difference for us (Sheila).

There are many ways to manage a new life in a new country. Each one of us has to find a combination of ways that are going to work for us. I hope this has give you some ideas about how you can not only survive the transition to life in a new country but thrive as well so that you can be in optimal condition to enjoy your new life fully.

References

  1. DeSouza, R., Walking upright here: Countering prevailing discourses through reflexivity and methodological pluralism. 2006, Auckland, NZ: Muddy Creek Press.
  2. Ho, E., et al., Settlement assistance needs of recent migrants. 2000, University of Waikato: Waikato.
  3. Kearns, R.A., et al., Social support and psychological distress before and after childbirth. Health and Social Care in the Community, 1997. 5(5): p. 296-308.
  4. Arisaka, Y., Asian women: Invisibility, locations, and claims to philosophy, in Women of color and philosophy: A critical reader, N. Zack, Editor. 2000, Blackwell Publishers: Malden, Mas. p. 219-223.
  5. Ward, C., S. Bochner, and A. Furnham, The psychology of culture shock. Second edition ed. 2001, Hove, East Sussex: Routledge.
  6. Meleis, A.I., et al., Experiencing transitions: an emerging middle-range theory. Advances in Nursing Science, 2000. 23(1): p. 12-28.
  7. Weaver, G., Understanding and coping with cross-cultural adjustment stress, in Culture, communication and conflict: readings in intercultural relations, G. Weaver, Editor. 1994, Gin Press: USA. p. 169-191.
  8. Vasta, E., Gender, class and ethnic relations: the domestic and work experiences of Italian migrant women in Australia, in Intersexions; gender, class, culture, ethnicity, G. Bottomley, M.D. Lepervanche, and J. Martin, Editors. 1991, Allen and Unwin: Sydney.

Mutual sustenance: Goan women and the Catholic church in New Zealand

First published in Goanet Reader Sun, 30 Apr 2006 and also published in the Indian Catholic May 21,2006

On December 3 2005, Catholic Goans in Auckland, New Zealand celebrated the Feast of St Francis Xavier with a mass in Konkani, the first time such an event had been held in New Zealand. For those who don’t know, Francis Xavier was actually born in the Spanish kingdom of Navarre. He arrived in Goa in May 1542 and went on from there to Cape Comorin in the south of India, spending three years working among the pearl-fishers, or Paravas, of the Fishery Coast. His journey took him to the East Indies, to Malacca and the Moluccas, and, finally, in 1549 to Japan. He died on December 3rd, 1552, as he attempted to enter China and was buried. Within a few weeks his body was recovered and found to be perfectly preserved. It was brought to Goa and received there with devotion and enthusiasm leading to his beatification by Pope Paul V in 1619 and later his canonization by Pope Gregory XV, on March 12th, 1622. He is now the patron Saint of Goa. This event led me to wonder about the significance of religion and faith among Goans and how this sustained them during their migration and settlement in other countries.

In terms of  the New Zealand population, there is growing cultural, linguistic and religious diversity. Three trends are apparent: first, that religious participation by White or Pakeha New Zealanders is declining while changes in immigration policy have resulted in the introduction and growth of both diasporic religious traditions (such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and so on) and an invigoration of Christian denominations. The 2001 Census noted that more than half the New Zealand population identified with a Christian religion (Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian dominating) and the largest non-Christian religions were Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Spiritualism and New Age religions.

In my research among Goan women in New Zealand, what became apparent to me is that while Goan women have become detached from their homeland (all participants were born outside of Goa) they continue to have a link with the homeland while surviving in, and engaging, a foreign culture. Also religion and cultural identity are tightly inter-connected. There is academic debate about whether religion is a core attribute of culture or whether it functions within it, is more prominent than culture or in the background. I found many women in describing their identity, forgot that there are Hindu and Muslim Goans.

My description would be Goan Roman Catholic. Primarily being Goan is being Catholic because all the Catholics normally came from Goa, which was one of the Catholic states of India (Lorna).

As I grew up you grow out of church and praying and you go the other way kind of thing, but that was very strong, I think the Catholic faith, which stayed throughout. I mean even now you just link up being Goan and Catholic together (Rowena).

Crossing borders as migrants do involves not only physical borders but also emotional and behavioural boundaries. Becoming a member of a new society stretches the boundaries of what is possible because one’s life and roles change, and with them, identities change as well. This involves trauma and then incorporating new identities and roles becomes necessary for survival.

For many Goans in Auckland, the Catholic religion and church provided a mechanism for coming to grips with a new environment and assisted the transition to living in New Zealand. They could mix with other ethnic communities while at the same time maintain their culture and faith, that is it provided a bridge connects Goans to other Catholics while who shared similar religious beliefs and values even if they were culturally different.

Thus Churches provide a vehicle for helping Goans participate in New Zealand life rather than isolating them. In the case of the Catholic Church Goan migrants were already familiar with the rituals and structure and the church provided a supportive and welcoming space for them as immigrants. As someone who grew up in New Zealand, our youth group provided a wonderful source of friendship and fellowship for me and my two sisters.

Churches provide not only institutional spiritual comfort but also practical support. For example when we first came to New Zealand, our family was able to buy what is now called ‘retro’ or ‘vintage’ through the recycling process of the mini-market where you could buy other parishioners unwanted clothes.

Churches have also responded to new migrants by attending to and incorporating religious practices that are culturally significant for immigrants; for Goans this includes celebration of the Feast of St Francis Xavier, the patron Saint of Goa. Thus immigrants have infused change and a rich range of experiences in the churches they have joined within their receiving communities. I also remember with delight the Samoan choir who would sing in Samoan and English elevating our services to celestial heights once a month.

Integration into New Zealand is made so much easier by belonging to a ‘mainstream’ faith, providing entry into New Zealand society and enhancing integration and acceptance for participants into the dominant society in a way that people from minority faiths don’t have access to. Because Catholicism can be accessed within mainstream society, it can mean that not as much energy is required to maintain the faith. I remember at a Muslim women’s Hui I attended last year the major efforts Muslims went through to obtain halal food, such as going to farms and butchering their own animals.

Furthermore, faith, prayer and networks from the church also provide the support to aspire and do well in New Zealand. Flora felt strongly that her transition and survival in New Zealand was due to her faith and the help of the church.

You know the help came from God, you know through the Church (Flora).

There is a risk of complacency in extending ourselves beyond our own faith and ethnic communities once we grow in size as a community. As ethnic communities increase in size they move from being multi-ethnic religious communities and later establish themselves into ethnically-specific religious institutions. Rowena developed a new network of support through her church, which went beyond Goans and was a lifeline:

I started going to a mothers group there and I met a lot of other Malaysian and Indonesian and Filipino women and we would go and have coffee together and that kind of thing and my social life. I got quite involved with the Parish and doing work for the Church because I mean I really didn’t know many other people. I did meet a lot of elderly parishioners they were wonderful they would come and give me flowers, chocolates and really spoil me because they knew I was on my own and they were wonderful (Rowena).

For many early Goan migrants the lack of a community meant that her faith took on great importance and in particular prayer:

Like prayer did help me it honestly did, because you are alone, you are alone a lot of the time. Even though there are lots of people, you can still be alone you know (Sheila).

Therefore it can be seen that religious institutions provide spiritual resources that offer sustenance through the tasks of adjusting to living in a new country. The recognition of faith is well recognised in the United Kingdom where it is recognised that “faith groups are part of the ‘glue’ that binds strong communities and we value the experience, skills and diversity they bring to wider society.”

In considering the New Zealand Immigration Settlement Strategy for migrants, refugees and their families it can be seen that Churches often provide many of the settlement resources and are linked with the strategy’s six goals for migrants and refugees. They are for migrants and refugees to:

  • Obtain employment appropriate to their qualifications and skills;
  • Are confident using English in a New Zealand setting, or can access appropriate language support to bridge the gap;
  • Are able to access appropriate information and responsive services that are available to the wider community (for example housing, education, and services for children);
  • Form supportive social networks and establish a sustainable community identity; Feel safe expressing their ethnic identity and are accepted by, and are part of, the wider host community.

This brief piece paper provides some new information about the place of religion among Goans in the diaspora by focussing on Goans who have settled in Auckland, New Zealand.

The Catholic Church has been a mechanism of integration, offering a two way exchange of support and energy through social support, spiritual and secular activities. The Church provides a mechanism for facilitating cultural continuity while simultaneously easing immigrants’ transitions into New Zealand. The Church has supported Goan migrants and in turn the presence of Goans has I am sure enriched the church itself (certainly in numbers, if not energy and dynamism. This paper demonstrates the enduring nature of religion as a social institution which plays a part in sustaining Goans through the settlement process, providing both spiritual resources (such as prayer, connections with other migrants and receiving community members) and practical help for managing both the psychological effects of migration and enduring the hardship of migration and settlement in a new country.

What does it mean to be Goan?

This piece was previously published in the Goanet Reader: July 29th 2005

Issues of celebration and connection, reflected in food and song

Food is one of the many things that make life not only pleasurable but memorable. I recently met a young Goan man who is completing a degree who asked me if I could come to his birthday party and share some sorpotel and vindaloo recipes as the celebration wouldn’t be a celebration with them, especially with him being so far away from home. This led me to reflect on the importance of food and consider writing something for Goanet Reader.

As you all know Goans have been a highly mobile population and are scattered all over the globe as a result of colonisation, and in a bid for a better life and education for their children. At the beginning of the millennium I undertook a research project to explore how Goan women in Auckland New Zealand coped with the dual transitions of migration and motherhood as becoming a parent in a new county is a common aspect of migration which is also under-researched.

It is well known that migrants draw on cultural resources and links such as the notion of homeland, language, religion, everyday social rituals such as food, drink, dance and song, family, morals, community, landscape, histories and occupations.

Researchers of migrant communities have found that connection with one’s ethnic community is vital for collective cultural maintenance. This takes the forms of being involved in community-type social networks in order to maintain their culture, taking part in ethnic institutions, making trips “home” and marrying within the community. These were all identified in my research as significant, but for this piece I have chosen to focus on the importance of traditional food in maintaining Goan culture and in relation to the perinatal period. I have also incorporated words from the Goan women that participated in the research (with deep and heartfelt thanks).

Food has a symbolic and social significance that is deeply embedded in a culture and is used to express many things such as love, friendship, solidarity and the maintenance of social ties.  The significance of food is heightened with migration, where it is the most resistant aspect to the acculturation process for migrant communities. Frequently, food is integrated into the host culture, as those Goans living in the United Kingdom or from Africa will attest to as seen by the incorporation of Indian foods into African and British communities.

Traditional food and celebration are pivotal to the construction of Goan identity and an important part of ‘everyday’ food, religious festivals, weddings and special events. Food also has historical significance as seen by the impact of Portuguese, Muslim and Indian cultures apparent in Goan cuisine. Conversion to Catholicism by the Portuguese meant that foods moved from being taboo to consumable and differentiated Goans from other Indians, making them more Western.

The special foods that go with events during the year are very traditionally Goan, for example we have Christmas sweets. Besides Christmas sweets, I associate eating Pilao on a Sunday and not just any other thing, very Goan. and having your fish curry and rice as well (Lorna).

 

Fish curries and coconut curries and I had learn to cook when I was quite young and I had wanted to get into the kitchen and dad would go to the marketplace and buy all this yummy fish and come home and cook it up and basically you’d eat Goan and things like that (Rowena).

Goan fish curry is ubiquitous in most households in Goa, eaten regularly and served with rice. Pilao is possibly from Muslim times prior to Portuguese rule, made with basmati rice and flavoured with whole spices like cardamom and stock. The Goan sweets that are mentioned by Lorna originate from Portugal and the Konkan region and they are produced and exchanged with friends and neighbours at Christmas time. Every sweet has coconut in it in milk form or thinly sliced. In Rowena’s quote below, food is a way of acknowledging the family and social ties:

We often had picnics, which had all the favourite dishes like sorpotel, xacuti, food were very important in terms of being social and the family (Rowena).

Xacuti is a complicated and painstaking Goan dish made with chicken or lamb that involves the roasting of all the seasonings before they are ground to a paste. Sorpotel is a ceremonial dish made from pork that is prepared for feast days, Christmas, weddings and other special occasions. The following anonymous poem does more to illustrate the place of sorpotel in the connections of Goans to ‘home’.

SORPOTEL

For the hotch potch known as Haggis, let the Scotsman yearn or yell For the taste of Yorkshire pudding, let the English family dwell. For the famed Tandoori Chicken, that Punjabis praise like hell But for us who hail from Goa, there’s nothing like SORPOTEL!

From the big wigs in Colaba, to the small fry in Cavel From the growing tribes in Bandra, to the remnants in Parel. From the lovely girls in Glaxo, to the boys in Burma Shell There’s no Goan whose mouth won’t water, when you talk of SORPOTEL!

And Oh! for Christmas dinner don’t you think it would be swell If by some freak of fortune or by some magic spell We could, as they have in Goa a bottle of the cajel And toddy leavened sannas to go with SORPOTEL!

In this poem, sorpotel becomes a metaphor for migration and connection to home. The names of the Mumbai (Bombay) suburbs, with their differing social capital, in the second verse illustrates that no matter where in the world a Goan is, sorpotel is the social leveller. Cajel refers to a distilled liquor made of cashew and toddy is fermented coconut or palm juice, which is frequently used like yeast to make sannas, a type of rice cakes made in moulds with a batter of ground rice, toddy, coconut and sugar and then steamed. The predilection for sorpotel has been influenced by the historical context of Goans being a colonised people and as such it is an apt metaphor for the richness of the culture located in a small geographic area.

Food plays a significant part in weddings as well, as seen by these words by Flora:

The day after the wedding, It was in my mother-in-law’s house they made that plain white rice with samarachi curry with dried prawns that is supposed to be a typical dish for second day wedding lunch, then third day at my mums place, it was the three days festivities. You must be knowing about that (Flora).

The samarachi codi refers to a curry made with coconut milk. Food is significant from the most private and everyday to the ritualised public celebrations like weddings. Such events and networking with other Goans or Christian Indians were another strategy for cultural maintenance.

Perinatal Rituals

Having a child is one of the most culturally and spiritually significant events for women and their families and the significance of this transition is validated through ritual. It is thought that cultures that have supportive rituals for new mothers have lower rates of postnatal distress (PND) and that women in Western countries are at high risk of developing PND Rituals reflect the vulnerability and special status of the new mother and include being restricted to the home, being given assistance, being given special foods and massage.

In Indian communities the experience of pregnancy and birth is traditionally marked by nurturing and celebration of the status of women who are to become mothers. This nurturing is highlighted through the giving of special foods and assistance. Movements of new mothers are restricted to the home for forty days due to their perceived vulnerability postpartum. During this forty day period, assistance is given with personal care and the physical body is taken care of through massage and ensuring the mother has an opportunity to relax. Parturition is thought to generate a state of hotness and therefore weakness. Grandmothers can play an active part in the preparation of special food and ensuring a nourishing diet that includes foods such as ghee, nuts, milk and jaggery1 which are given to return the body to balance.

This attentiveness and “endless care” that is received from the extended family (Shin & Shin, 1999, p.611) can be lost in the process of migrating. This celebration of the status of the new mother in ‘developing countries’ subverts the notion of ‘West is best’ and the backwardness of the East, that was taken for granted in my post-colonial upbringing. A recent article in NEXT magazine in New Zealand have suggested that rituals need to be re-instated to celebrate the status of motherhood (Sarney, 1999). Greta found that the shift from a social process of pregnancy to an individualised one a painful loss:

Everyone else does things for you and you know in that way you are just pampered. You get all these supposedly nourishing treats and foods and things you know. Like all these pulses and the sweets that you normally have. I’m not very sweet tooth, but I think they do help in a way you know. The nourishing factors. You know things like that. At the same time being here makes you think of all these things that you take for granted back home (Greta).

Focused individual care is given to new mothers, and family members take on roles in relation to food preparation and hospitality as in Lorna’s story:

You know you get your massages and things. Mum looks after the cooking because that takes away a lot of time and then you don’t have to worry about that. Goan things like moong, godshem and other lentils millet, tizan, and things like that, you know what that is. I guess you would have had that if you were coming from the traditional villages I’m sure, but ahh we have lost a lot of culture on the way. Yeah yeah I guess you also have many more people around you in India so that if you are busy with doing something someone else can entertain make the tea or conversation (Lorna).

Migrating reminded Lorna of the loss of traditions that began with the move from traditional villages to urban settings prior to the migration to New Zealand. The drive for upward mobility (in the Western sense) in Goa and the concomitant loss of traditional ‘old fashioned’ rituals has resulted in loss of forms of nurturance from many cultures.

Being separated from family and culture meant were impediments to conducting traditional rituals. For some Goan women it meant not having anyone to consult who was bicultural and could see the importance of special food. Migration can lead to separation from family and trusteed advisers leading to a ‘vacuum of knowledge’ . Rowena was anxious about the appropriate food to be eating and struggled to create a new frame of reference and develop a sense of what she ‘should’ be doing. Rowena sought guidance but ultimately was unable to cook any of the things that she thought might be useful because her husband worked long hours and there were no extended family members available to help her enact traditional rituals:

No, in fact I didn’t know what to eat, but the hospital kept saying eat a normal diet. Do I have to have spicy food? They said since you’ve been eating it all your life and during pregnancy, you don’t have to drink milk to get milk, just eat well. Because being alone I had to cook my own stuff, so I just continued eating my normal things (Rowena).

This example again highlights the tensions of attempting to fulfil cultural expectations but also fit into what was appropriate in the new culture.

Bringing family in to support rituals

Several participants brought mothers and mothers-in law to New Zealand because it was unusual to have a baby ‘by yourself’, to help with tradition, food preparation, care of the baby and allow the new mother to rest. Lorna, Greta and Flora chose to bring family members over where possible to provide both support and assistance with rituals. Lorna was fortunate in being able to bring her mother over to help out, and points out the alien notion of the individualising of a major life event like birth:

Then you come to a place with no-one around you, you don’t really know if you can make it alone. You know you are not very independent in a way, so it is unfamiliar to have a baby on your own. Yeah, so that’s why, so you just sort of have Mum over everybody has Mum over, it’s a Goan thing to do, it’s an Indian thing to do (Lorna).

Greta was supported by both her mother and mother-in-law who came to New Zealand to assist with care of the baby and other household tasks which included food preparation and advice. Greta’s example illuminates the richness and significance of cultural rituals in the postpartum period:

Fenugreek seeds and jaggery and coconut milk and she kept giving me that and I found that quite nourishing. I don’t know whether that would generate just the milk and also a sort of porridge made from semolina. So I would bake that and a drink that would help me clear up my stomach too much of gas so those things helped me a lot (Greta).

The importance of food to many Goan rituals and special occasions is emphasised in Flora’s recount of her child’s christening which emphasised the symbolic significance of the Goan connection to the earth through the serving to guests of chickpeas and coconut: Flora’s example highlights how she feels she needs to justify the significance or legitimacy of particular types of food to ‘Kiwis’ or have it legitimated by them. This perhaps represents a sign of her wanting to ‘fit in’. This could also be a way of justifying to white New Zealanders the attachment to things Goan:

Even for a normal party you see all Goan tradition, you must make this food you know, like for an auspicious occasion, like a Christening. Coconut in it, that is a must, you know a christening can’t go without that. The Kiwis, you know wonder what are we serving boiled grams (chickpeas) for on an occasion like this. My aunt was going around to all the Kiwi guests saying you know I’m serving coconut. I didn’t know what was the meaning behind it, but she was explaining you know chickpeas are the food of the soil, and coconut is also a food of the soil (Flora).

Therefore it can be seen that food plays an important role both in the private lives of Goans and the celebrations and life transitions such as parenthood.  One of the many strengths that Goans have is the capacity for celebration and connection with each other through food and song.  The internet and increased numbers in our global communities mean that we can more easily access whatever it means for us to be Goan.

The Portuguese colonisation of Goa and migration to East Africa

This piece was previously published in the Goanet Reader: May 22nd  2005

We often think of migration as moving between two places, my story is one of many journeys that spans the generations.

I was born in what was then Tanganyika and is now Tanzania, into a Catholic family originating from Goa, India. As a child, I was exposed to multiple heritages and languages; Maragoli, Swahili, Konkani and English. My family’s migration history began with my great-grandfather leaving Goa to work in Burma and both sets of grandparents subsequently migrated to Tanganyika. My parents own double migration took them first to Kenya in 1967 and then to New Zealand in 1975.

Leaving Africa was a result of the unease caused by the expulsion of ‘Asians’ — meaning people from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India — from neighbouring Uganda in 1972. East Africa in the early 1970s saw increasing crime targeted against Indian people, who were the shop owners and business people and our daily lives were being increasingly affected by the process of ‘Kenyanisation’, which privileged Kenyans over all others.

I recall going to sleep frightened and being told to pray for safety. My parents wanted to live away from fear, be able to take advantage of educational opportunities and above all build “a better life” for their children.

In 1975, they decided to emigrate and after some failed attempts to get to the United States we made arrangements to move to New Zealand. Our family knew little about this country; one promotional film and a friend who lived in Wellington. In order to afford the cost of the airfare, we had to sell virtually all our possessions, others were given away, even my parents wedding presents were left behind.

To understand my family history of migration, it is important to put it in context. Goa is located in the middle of an abundant coastal strip on the south west Coast of India which has an area of 3,701 square kilometres and a primarily agrarian economy with, more recently, a tourism and service industry.

The name ‘Goa’ comes from ‘Gomant’ of the Mahabharata and apparently “Goa was reclaimed by Lord Parshuram from the mighty sea by shooting an arrow into it.” (Mahajan, 1978, p.22). This sounds remarkably like the Mori mythology of the discovery of the North island Maui. Goa was renowned as a port as far back as the third century BC, when Buddhism was spreading through India. It was a Portuguese colony from 1510 until 1961, at which time Goa was liberated by the Indian army. On May 31, 1987 Goa became the 25th state in the Republic of India (Newman, 1999).

The arrival of the Portuguese led to Goans becoming a migrating society. The Portuguese came to Goa “to seek Christians and spices” (Albuquerque, 1988, p.25) and Catholicism became entrenched in Goa due to the intense proselytising campaign using “bribery, threat and torture” by the Portuguese (Robinson, 2000, p.2421).

Goa’s inquisition began in 1560 and ended in 1812 (Robinson, 2000). Inquisitions were used by the Portuguese to prevent defection back to other faiths and had far reaching implications. In the laws and prohibitions of the inquisition in 1736, over 42 Hindu practices were prohibited (Newman, 1999). They were implemented through the eradication of indigenous cultural practices such as ceremonies, fasts, the use of the sacred basil or tulsi plant, flowers and leaves for ceremony or ornament and the exchange of betel and areca nuts for occasions such as marriage (Robinson, 2000). Methods such as repressive laws, demolition of temples and mosques, destruction of holy books, fines and the forcible conversion of orphans were used (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1979).

FAR REACHING

There were other far reaching changes that took place during the occupation by the Portuguese, these included the prohibition of traditional musical instruments and singing of celebratory verses, which were replaced by Western music (Robinson, 2000). People were renamed when they converted and not permitted to use their original Hindu names. Alcohol was introduced and dietary habits changed dramatically so that foods that were once taboo, such as pork and beef, became part of the Goan diet (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1979). Architecture changed with the Baroque style that was in vogue in Portugal becoming popular. Thus, many customs were suppressed and Goans became ‘Westernised’ to some degree as a Catholic elite who came to see themselves as a “cultivated branch of a global Portuguese civilisation” (Routledge, 2000, p.2649).

During Portuguese rule, the ancient language of Konkani was suppressed and rendered unprivileged by the enforcement of Portuguese (Newman, 1999). The result this linguistic displacement was that Goans did not develop a literature in Konkani nor could the language unite the population as several scripts (including Roman, Devanagari and Kannada) were used to write it (Newman, 1999). Konkani became the lingua de criados (language of the servants) (Routledge, 2000) as Hindu and Catholic elites turned to Marathi and Portuguese respectively. Ironically Konkani is now the ‘cement’ that binds all Goans across caste, religion and class and is affectionately termed ‘Konkani Mai’ (Newman, 1999). In 1987 Konkani was made an official language of Goa.

The Portuguese colonisation of Goa was a catalyst that led many Goans to become a mobile population. Socio-economic factors such as the taxation of land to raise funds for Portuguese expeditions, the appropriation of land from villagers leading to outsider control and the removal of people from their original source of livelihood were powerful forces in the decision to migrate. Yet Newman (1999) claims that what drove Goans to emigrate was that they valued a consumerist, bourgeois-capitalist society in Goa and sought more money, despite the relatively high incomes available at home. Historically, there has been a strong Goan ethos of moving up, caused by the small size of Goa and the inability to divide up communal land (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1994).

As Goans began migrating, English displaced the dominance of Portuguese in the 1920s as many Goans moved to British India and other British colonies.

This migration began as a result of the declining Goan economy, which under Portuguese rule could not provide adequate employment for Goa’s population whereas new opportunities and economic development were available in British India (Nazareth, 1981). Goans first worked for the British in 1779 at the time of the French Revolution. The naval fleet of the British Indian Government was stationed in Goa and found that Christian Goans were eminently suitable to work for them because of their Western dress, diet and customs. When the fleets withdrew from Goa, many Goans went with them. In the eighteenth century Goan began trading with Mozambique, Zanzibar and East Africa. Indian independence in 1945 exacerbated the flow of migrants of Goan origin who were residing in British India (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1979).

As English became more significant to Goans, schools began to teach it, giving more Goans the opportunity to migrate to British India. Many Goans also gained English language skills in the process of migrating to British territories, due to the greater emphasis on education and on language, as a method of upward mobility.

Goan migration to Africa was not surprising.  Indians had been traders and later sojourners as far back as three thousand years. The Indian diaspora was a 19th and 20th century development related to the impact of the British indentured labour scheme, which sought to replace slave labour with cheap and reliable labour for plantations (Sowell, 1996), or the building of railways, for example in Uganda (van den Berghe, 1970). This scheme was seen by some as a new system of slavery (Tinker, 1974) and though formally abolished in 1916 it continued until 1922 (Brah, 1996). Indian women were the second largest group transported to colonies after African women and they were subjected to fieldwork and received comparable punishment and gross indignities in the same manner. Smith (1999) suggests that the indentured labour system was as inhumane as the slave trade through the in-humanity of captivity and forced labour for capitalist gains.

Large scale migrations of Indians to Africa began with the construction of the great railway from Mombasa to Lake Victoria in Uganda in the late nineteenth century (Sowell, 1996). The British employed Indians because the Africans who owned land would only work for brief periods.

Fifteen thousand of the sixteen thousand ‘coolies’ who worked on the railroads were Indians. They were renowned for their work ethic and competitiveness, but one quarter of them died or returned disabled (Sowell, 1996). Indians (especially Goans) were recruited to run the railways after they were built (as my grandparents were) and Goans came to dominate the colonial civil services (Sowell, 1996).

Goans made up the only significant number of Christian Indians in East Africa, as it was the Catholic rather than the Hindu Goans that migrated there. Catholic Goans spoke Konkani, English or Portuguese and dressed in more Western clothing. They were further set apart from Hindus and Muslims by virtue of religion and because they ate pork and beef. For Goans, migration to Africa was intended as a way of earning some money for retirement in Goa and putting down permanent roots was not encouraged by colonial authorities (Kuper, 1979).

Asians were excluded from certain professions or from living in areas where Europeans preferred to settle, for example the fertile Kenyan highlands (Kuper, 1979). They operated within a milieu of prejudice, suspicion and disadvantage. Land was unavailable for freehold purchase and education provision was inadequate resulting in children being sent back to India (as my father was). Later on, as communities grew, special schools were established and women and children joined their men (as was the case for my mother’s family).

EVERYTHING CHANGED

Moving forward to our arrival in New Zealand everything I had ever known had changed. The availability of traditional foods, ingredients and so on was limited. The weather was cold and unfriendly, colder than anything we had experienced before. I was dismayed by the lack of wild and colourful animals.

I had also lost my place in the world, moving from a familiar social circle to where everything was now unknown. Settling in New Zealand was difficult financially, socially and emotionally. In Africa there had been a very strong Goan and Indian symbiotic community that provided cultural links. Despite being ‘foreign’ there was a sub-culture in East Africa that was supportive and understood by Africans. As Alibhai (1989, p.31) stated in an account of her life in Uganda:

The Asians had evolved a very strong network, partly because of the needs and fears that inevitably arise when groups migrate and partly because they were non-dominant in countries where they had no political power and a constant sense of being vulnerable.

In New Zealand we were different again, but less well understood. The ensuing years have  become easier and my ambivalence has decreased about whether I belong to Aotearoa.

The increase in members of the Goan and African communities have rejuvenated and inspired me and invigorated the communities I am affiliated with. The increased availability of a range of ingredients and cultural resources have also made connections with food and other cultural icons more accessible.

I prefer the plus model of identity rather than the minus one. I belong to Goa, plus East Africa plus New Zealand and the places I’ve lived and loved in. Although I experienced changes and loss integral to migration and learned first hand of the isolation that migrants can face in New Zealand (which has led me as an adult to be involved in supporting them) there were also positive implications.

The loss of traditional economic, social and familial restraints allowed me to fulfil my potential in a way that I might never have had, had I grown up in Goa or East Africa. Having to scrutinise my identity closely has led me to see the world through many eyes (an important requirement for an educator) as Edward Said states: “The essential privilege of exile is to have, not just one set of eyes but half a dozen, each of them corresponding to the places you have been.” I believe that my migration and travel experiences give me many ways of seeing the world and that the migrants that come to Aotearoa enrich the country with their lives and experiences.