Sunday November 19, 2017

If Gods can be gay, why can’t we? Maori author Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to Maoris in New Zealand

Ihimaera's book 'Nights in the Gardens of Spain', a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out, was turned into a movie

4
176
Witi Ihimaera. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

– by Preetha Nair

Sept 04, 2016: Aboriginal, litterateur, and rebel, Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to the Maoris in New Zealand. The first published novelist in Maori literature, the 72-year-old has several novels, short stories and recognitions to his credit.

September Aboriginal, litterateur, and rebel, Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to the Maoris in New Zealand. The first published novelist in Maori literature, the 72-year-old has several novels, short stories and recognitions to his credit.

His works were a harbinger of change to the Maoris, says Ihimaera who questioned in his works.

Ihimaera’s book ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’, a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out, was turned into a movie.

The author, who also worked as a diplomat at the New ZealandMinistry of Foreign Affairs, spoke to IANS on the sidelines of Mountain Echoes Literary Festival held in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.

Maori People. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Maori People. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Excerpts from the interview:

Q) You were the first published novelist in Maori literature. How important is it to tell stories of the marginalised?

A) It is important to tell the story of the Maori in a world of huge voices and political entities. We are a minority, and also one among the many indigenous communities around the world. Our story will help give voice to other indigenous people whether they live in India, or North America or in South East Asia. We all have the same stories of colonisation.

Q) Did you face resistance from the West?

A) My life was always about resistance. We were denied educational opportunities and there was institutional racism. Our land has been taken away and I have seen my grandmothers struggling for land to farm. The consequence of our fight through literature and other means was that our land was returned after 30 years. The government is providing better housing and education for the Maoris now. There is a better understanding of Maori culture now and my work is a part of New Zealand’s curriculum.

Q) You came out of the closet in 1984 and have dealt with sexuality in your writings. How was it received?

A) One has to be brave when dealing with issues like rape and homosexuality. There is authentication of sexual identity in mythology that has been denied by the West. Europeans look towards Gods in Greek mythology who can shapeshift and make love with women, men and animals just like some Hindu gods. Why can’t we accept homosexuality in the way our mythology explains it? I operate in a Maori value system and don’t care what people say.

Witi Ihimaera memorial plaque in Dunedin. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Witi Ihimaera memorial plaque in Dunedin. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Q) In your memoir, you have written about being abused as a child. How difficult was it to write about it and what was the reaction?

A) I always adopt an organic approach to writing, looking at it culturally and socially. I wanted to address the issue of child abuse. My work has always been a shock to many. The Maori community is now largely Christian and it was difficult for them to acknowledge it. I am accustomed to shift the universe a little. That’s my theory of change. Each one of us has the power to change the system.

Q) Who’s your favourite Indian author?

A) It should be Arundhati Roy. She is an intellectual and erudite woman.

(IANS)

Next Story

Planning to move Abroad for Higher Education? Here is a list of 5 Most Affordable Destinations to Study Abroad

Here is a list of some of the most affordable destinations to study abroad!

0
25
affordable destinations to study abroad
Choosing to study abroad can be a tough call, and you must consider all factors before you make a decision. Pixabay

Planning to move abroad for higher education?

Access to education is one of the most basic rights of people across the world. However, when it comes to pursuing higher education from international universities, it seems like there are only a few who can afford to study at a destination of your choice.

While the thought of moving abroad and living in a new place with people from different faiths and nationalities can be extremely exciting, there are a few things you must responsibly think about before you take a final decision. The cost of tuition fees, food bills, rent are some of the important aspects to think about and plan before making a call.

Still, living abroad doesn’t come cheap. Wondering about affordable destinations to study abroad? We have got you covered!

 1. GERMANY

With more than 350 universities and institutions offering over 800 courses to make a choice from, Germany makes one of the better and affordable destinations to study abroad. As an emerging education destination, Germany has witnessed an increasing trend of international students with as much as a 14 per cent increase between 2013 and 2015.

Germany is believed to have some of the best academic infrastructures in the world that focus not only on education, but holistic development of the student. The country is also considered to be the one of the top countries to attain specialization in disciplines relating to engineering and technology.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of Germany. Pixabay

While knowing a new language is always a benefit, students need not know German for courses opted in English.

Despite being a nation in central-Europe, the cost of living in Germany is surprisingly low when compared to other European countries. According to data available on the internet, Germany has a lower cost of living than Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

As per information by the German Academic Exchange Service, international students are believed to spend about 725 Euros as part of their daily expenses while local students spend about 864 for their expenses.

Apart from low sustenance costs, German universities have little to no tuition fees which make them an attractive choice as one of the affordable destinations to study abroad.

 2. FINLAND

The Finnish education system has been ranked as one of the best in the world. The country offers a wide variety of courses to choose from and a student can go to Finland as a student for a complete academic degree, an exchange student or as a trainee.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of Finland. Pixabay

Regardless of your nationality, students are exempted from paying tuition fees at Finnish Universities which makes the country a good choice for one of the most affordable destinations to study abroad. However, there are some exceptions in case of a few master’s degrees and programmes.

Since all education costs are born by the Finnish government, students going to the country for Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees do not have any scholarship. However, students joining Finnish universities for doctoral studies and research can avail certain scholarships.

The country has a reputation for a high cost of living in comparison to other countries but Helsinki is suggested as the most affordable city in the region.

 3. NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand has a lot to offer to international students. With cheaper cost of living than nearby places like Australia and reasonable tuition fees, New Zealand has emerged as one of the most affordable destinations to study abroad.

There are 8 universities in New Zealand that comprise a safe and welcoming community and offer high quality of education.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of New Zealand. Pixabay

The country has an extremely flexible education system that can comfortably match the budget of students and offers great value for money. International students can further avail several scholarships that are provided by the New Zealand government, foreign governments, educational institutions, and private sources.

There is no stipulated figure for the annual living expenses incurred by international students as that can vary depending upon the university chosen by every individual student. However, the New Zealand government suggests having up to 15,000 dollars to comfortably cover expenses during the first year of study.

 4. SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa is next on our list of most affordable destinations to study abroad.

Tuition fees in South Africa depend upon your choice of university and the education programme.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of South Africa. Pixabay

Nearly all higher education institutes in South Africa comprise of student support offices that help student find and settle into their chosen programmes and accommodations which are available both, on campus and within close proximity to the university campus.

The cost of living in South Africa is relatively low. As per data on the internet, students can estimate an expense of about 980 USD per month, which will include student’s accommodation, food expenses, bills and travel.

These lower costs mean students need not spend exorbitant prices during their student years, in comparison to expenses in other developed countries.

 5. CANADA

Canada has long been one of the preferred countries by people from all parts of the world, courtesy its warm and welcoming society. The country has fast emerged as a preferred location for international students too.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of Canada. Pixabay

Apart from being extremely peaceful, safe and welcoming, Canada is known worldwide for its high standard of living and low cost of living for students.

Canada is known to have some of the cheapest tuition fees for international students when compared to other English-speaking universities. As per data available on the internet, international students bear an annual expense within the bracket of 20,000 to 30,000 Canadian dollars, which includes their tuition and living expenses.

Students enrolled in any Canadian university and aged between 18 and 25 can avail discounts when purchasing their monthly transport pass. Students need not spend much on food bills, either.

All these factors when combined together make Canada one of the most sought after and affordable destinations to study abroad.

Choosing to study abroad can be a tough call, and you must consider all factors before you make a decision. We wish you all the best!

– prepared by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala

Next Story

Listening for Well-being : Arun Maira Talks About a Democracy in Crisis, Unsafe Social Media and More in his Latest Book

Maira asserts that we must learn to listen more deeply to 'people who are not like us' in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race.

0
58
Arun Maira
Arun Maira (extreme left), during a public event in 2009. Wikimedia
  • Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira’s latest book is titled ‘Listening for Well-Being’
  • Maira observes that physical and verbal violence in the world and on social media is continuously growing
  • He also highlights the importance of ‘hearing each other’ in order to create truly inclusive and democratic societies

New Delhi, September 5, 2017 : Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira contends that “physical violence” in the real world and “verbal violence” on social media against people whom “we do not approve of” are increasing today. With such trends on the rise, the very idea of democracy finds itself in a crisis.

The solution?

“We need to listen more deeply to people who are not like us,” said the much-respected management consultant, talking of his latest book, “Listening for Well-Being”, and sharing his perspective on a wide range of issues that he deals with.

“Violence by people against those they dislike, for whatever reason, is increasing. It has become dangerous to post a personal view on any matter on social media. Responses are abusive. There is no respect for another’s dignity. People are also repeatedly threatened with physical violence.”

He said that gangs of trolls go after their victims viciously. “Social media has become a very violent space. Like the streets of a run-down city at night… not a safe space to roam around in.”

At the same time, streets in the physical world are becoming less safe too. “Any car or truck on the road can suddenly become a weapon of mass destruction in a ‘civilised’ country: in London, Berlin, Nice, or Barcelona,” Maira told IANS in an interview.

Maira said that with the rise of right-wing parties that are racist and anti-immigrant, there is great concern in the Western democratic world — in the US, the UK and Europe — that democracy is in a crisis.

In the US, for example, supporters of Donald Trump, Maira said, believe only what Trump says and watch only the news channels that share a similar ideology. On the other side are large numbers of US citizens who don’t believe what Trump says but they too have their own preferred news sources.

“They should listen to each other, and understand each other’s concerns. Only then can the country be inclusive. And also truly democratic — which means that everyone has an equal stake and an equal voice,” he noted.

In “Listening for Well-Being” (Rupa/Rs 500/182 Pages), Arun Maira shows his readers ways to use the power of listening. He analyses the causes for the decline in listening and proposes solutions to increase its depth in private and public discourse.

Drawing from his extensive experience as a leading strategist, he emphasises that by listening deeply, especially to people who are not like us, we can create a more inclusive, just, harmonious and sustainable world for everyone.

But it would be wrong to say that the decline in listening is only restricted to the Western world.

“We have the same issues in India too. We are a country with many diverse people. We are proud of our diversity. However, for our country to be truly democratic, all people must feel they are equal citizens.

“The need for citizens to listen to each other is much greater in India than in any other country because we are the most diverse country, and we want to be democratic. So, we must learn to listen more deeply to ‘people who are not like us’ in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race,” he maintained.

Maira also said that India is a country with a very long and rich history. And within the present boundaries of India are diverse people, with different cultures, different religions, and of different races.

“So, we cannot put too sharp a definition on who is an ‘Indian’ — the language they must speak, the religion they must follow, or the customs they must adopt. Because, then we will exclude many who do not have the same profiles, and say they are not Indians. Thus we can falsely, and dangerously, divide the country into ‘real Indians’ and those who are supposedly non-Indians. Indeed, such forces are rising in India,” he added.

Maira, 74, hoped that all his readers will appreciate that listening is essential to improve the world for everyone. He also maintained that it is not a complete solution to any of the world’s complex problems but by listening to other points of view, we can prevent conflict and also devise better solutions.

Born in Lahore, Arun Maira received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College. He has also authored two bestselling books previously, “Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions” and “Upstart in Government: Journeys of Change and Learning”. (IANS)

Next Story

These 2 Indian Families Have Kept Their Culture Alive in Timaru City of New Zealand

Registered in 2012, the Cultural Society helps promoting Indian cultural celebrations along with all the diverse communities

0
24
Keeping Hindu Culture Alive
Very few Indian reside in Timaru city, New Zealand. Wikimedia
  • The South Canterbury Indian Cultural Society bagged the award for arts and culture by the Trustpower Timaru District Community Awards
  • Very few Indians live in Timaru but they show cooperation and solidarity when it comes to celebrating Indian festivals
  • Battu and Hari family are an example of the Indians keeping their culture alive in a foreign land

New Zealand, August 23, 2017: In the recent 2017 Trustpower Timaru District Community Awards for New Zealand, South Canterbury Indian Cultural Society bagged the winner’s prize in the arts and culture category. The award recognizes the efforts put in by the Cultural Society to spread its cultural celebrations with the majority of the people.

Post the victory, Timaru Herald’s reporter Rachael Comer visited two humble and welcoming Timaru Indian families. Her purpose was to investigate how miles away from the homeland to a strange land, the families have successfully kept their cultural identity alive.

ALSO READ: Differently-abled Indian girl wins New Zealand achievement award

The first door that the reporter knocked was the Battu Family. In September 2011, Akhil Battu along with wife Ravinder Battu moved to the Timaru city with their three-month-old daughter. Hailing from Punjab, the Battus resided in Auckland. But after four months, Primeport Timaru offered Akhil a job.

Akhil, who is a marine engineer, has traveled to many parts of the world. For a long time, he had stayed away from home. But now that he has his own family, he chose New Zealand to start a settled life.

The Battus have settled well with their two daughters Mannat and Mehar, who are six and two years old respectively. While the Kiwi lifestyle has been great for the Battu family, the Indian couple has not forgotten their culture.

Their decor of their house is an Indian and New Zealand mix. Many of the items, including the curtains, are Indian.

The couple also dines on Indian cuisine throughout the week. The daughters carry Indian cuisine for school lunch. However, it is not enforced on the children, it is them who love the Indian food. Mannat even shared how her friends at school love her lunch.

The couple also ensures to speak their native language and have explained to the children about the importance of knowing multiple languages. Punjabi is the most preferred language of use at home.

The couple prefers to have a spiritual belief rather than a religious belief. The whole family does meditation on a daily basis. The parents, as well as the kids, watch Indian TV channels. They are also vegetarian.

Mr. Battu admitted that his pay grade in India was better than his job in New Zealand, but he wanted a higher standard of living for his family.

The couple agrees that the few Indians who live in Timaru are extremely cooperative.

Next was the Hari family who had been living for quite some years now in the Timaru City. In 2003, Kashyap Hari hailing from Gujarat, came to Timaru when there very few Indians. Hari worked as a chartered accountant in the same firm as his brother.

He did go back to India in 2008 and went to a function with his parents where young girls and boys could meet. That is where he met his wife, Namrata. The couple got married and came to Timaru.

Namrata expressed her amazement as she recalls how she had never been out of India. She felt different initially but gradually settled.

The couple now live in Timaru with their two children. The Hindu family is strictly religious. Kashyap Hari imported a copper temple from India where the family prays every early morning. The family usually lights a candle while praying.

The family’s favorite food includes dahi, chapati, and rice. The family also celebrates a number of Hindu festivals to keep their culture alive.

The South Canterbury Indian Cultural Society:

Registered in 2012, the Cultural Society helps to promote Indian cultural celebrations along with all the diverse communities. Many Indian festivals such as Holi, Rakhi, Navratri, Diwali etc. are hosted by the Society for all of the New Zealand to enjoy. On the Diwali celebrations, more than 500 visitors come to the event.

Indian hospitality, including singing, dancing and Indian food is exclusive to these events. It is a sincere effort to promote the Hindu culture.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter @Saksham2394


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.