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.