Massive Multicultural Week
At the end of September 2017, Upper Hutt City was home to possibly the biggest series of multicultural events yet to been seen in New Zealand. The Upper Hutt Multicultural Council, with support from the Upper Hutt City Library and Council, the Creative Communities Scheme, the Office of Ethnic Communities and E Tu Whanau, ran the first ever “Multicultural Week” in which each day of the week was dedicated to a different area of the world, and provided an array of activities, workshops and events to give the community a fun and supportive opportunity to explore some of the other cultures that are quickly becoming integrated into New Zealand society.
Multi-ethnic Football Tournament
Saturday 23rd September saw Upper Hutt Multicultural once again hold the annual Upper Hutt Multi-ethnic Football Tournament with Sportzone, where the weather behaved itself enough to get us a great turnout at Griffin Field. The day-long tournament boasted teams and players from all over the world: Zimbabwe, India, Somalia, Colombia, Syria, Aotearoa and more – featuring a men’s and women’s team from the NZ Police Force as well. The teams and supporters thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and played well and with good spirits. After an exciting final between Somalia and Colombia, Upper Hutt Multicultural Council was proud to send the winning team from the Men’s and Women’s Divisions to the national Multicultural Football Tournament in Auckland, where Upper Hutt’s teams have a good track record for taking home the trophy. Thanks go out to the Lion Foundation and Trust House Charitable Trust for their loyal sponsorship of the Tournament
Working with the Upper Hutt Library and Daisuke Hayashi, a Japanese-born long time New Zealand resident, UHMCC were able to introduce the people of Upper Hutt to the ancient Japanese art of “Kirigami”. Similar to its cousin, Origami, Kirigami is the art of paper-cutting, and we are lucky enough to have a master of the craft right here in the Hutt Valley! Daisuke ran a workshop for all ages on some kirigami insect patterns, and brought along some photos and info on the Hutt Minoh Friendship House, which is a Japanese cultural hub based out in Normandale in Lower Hutt. The workshop was delicate, messy, and a lot of fun, with both local and exchange students attending, as well as an origami enthusiast, and some little aspiring artists! One of the participants said she would love to see more hands on art activities like this, as her 5 year old daughter is at a great age to absorb other cultural teachings very easily.
On Tuesday 26th September UHMCC headed over to the local marae, Orongomai Marae, to give some of the more recent refugees/migrants a taste of real New Zealand culture. After a friendly whakatau from our kaumatua Mohi Waihi, everyone sat down to practice their English – between the students from English Language Partners and the local volunteers, there were about 30 of us sitting down to chat and meet each other. There was a delicious hangi available, packed to the brim with chicken, lamb, cabbage, kumara, potato and stuffing, and was a novel experience and taste for many of the attendees. We moved out of the whare kai afterward to learn some raranga with one of the multi-talented youth from the Marae, and finished with a beautifully woven rose each by the end of it. Many of the participants thoroughly enjoyed the time on the Marae, and were keen to learn more about Maori traditions like poi-making, te reo, and the actual hangi making process.
China Day featured our most popular workshop of the week; a traditional Dumpling-Making Class. Wei Zeng and Tina from Eden Natural Products on Russell Street in the Upper Hutt CBD worked together to demonstrate the different techniques involved in making the dumplings from scratch. With a large turnout out from the Chinese community to lend a hand, participants worked side by side with the experts to make and cook all of their own dumplings, and each got a booklet to take home so they could try them again with friends and family. With around 15-20 participants and the same again from the Chinese community, the Hapai Club kitchen was buzzing, and we had firmly positive requests that we run more cultural cooking classes again soon, with many participants mentioning they had friends or family who would love to take part, and appreciating the hands-on collaboration with the local Chinese community. Later that afternoon the New Zealand Chinese Culture and Arts Association put on an incredible show in the UH Library, including a Traditional Tea Ceremony, some Tai Chi, and a few cultural dance performances. We had a rapt audience of nearly 50 people, some who had come specifically for the show, and some whose curiosity had rewarded them with a pleasant addition to their day.
Middle East Day
On Friday Morning the UH Library welcomed Arwa from Lebanon/Yemen and Mayss from Syria to tell some stories to the children from Upper Hutt School. Two classes, a total of 54 very well-behaved students including a young Syrian boy who had only arrived 4 months ago, came in and got to learn some things from Arwa about the Middle Eastern countries and traditions that totally contradicted the stereotype; mountains and skifields, huge dance parties and weddings, beautiful intricate silver jewellery, and some of the most delicious food in the world! The children were very curious and asked a lot of good questions. Mayss, a recent New Zealand newcomer herself, had brought some Arabic stories, which she read first in Arabic and then in English, as well as talking a little bit about the alphabet and language, and helping the children to try some of the more unusual Arabic sounds! That afternoon the Library also put on a family movie in Arabic, with English subtitles.
For the grand finale of the week, UHMCC put on the annual Multicultural Festival at Expressions, which attracted a crowd of hundreds throughout the day. Bruce from Orongomai opened the Festival with a Karakia, and Pohswan Narayanan addressed the crowd as a representative of UHMCC and the Ministry of Social Development before introducing our special guest, Wen Powles, Director of the Office of Ethnic Communities. We had a magnificent line-up of performances, from Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Israel, China, Mongolia, Middle East, Ireland and Poland. Many audience members remarked at the calibre of these cultural communities hiding right under their nose! It was fantastic to see some old faces, as well as some new ones, and as always UHMCC enjoyed showcasing the flourishing diversity of our local community to the general public. The Upper Hutt Mayor closed with some positive words, and left us looking forward to next year.
Overall this was a massive week in many ways. It was massive in the volunteer time and effort put into making it a success. It was massive in the impact it made in the local community, and in the cross-cultural relationships and experiences it forged. And it was massive in the standard it set for the rest of New Zealand to follow in embracing our increasingly multicultural society. Earlier this year at the Upper Hutt Race Relations Day Interschool Debate, the winning team argued that although we are absolutely a multicultural country, New Zealand has work to do yet to embrace this fact. Upper Hutt City and Multicultural Council have once again led the race in growing and supporting a healthy and empowered intercultural community, and challenges the rest of New Zealand to do the same.