49

Avondale

A intro

 

For the second and final Auckland post I did think I should probably balance the first Otara post – poorish and Polynesian – with one set in a suburb more affluent and white.

But when I read that 40% of Auckland’s population were born overseas and that according to a recent study by Statistics New Zealand, minority communities are almost certain to outnumber whities in Auckland in the next few years, I decided to choose a suburb that might be more reflective of Auckland’s future than its past – Avondale, west of the city centre.

Quick facts. Settled after the late 1850s when the Great North Road was built. Early industries included brickyards, tanneries and market gardens. Semi-famous for the ‘Avondale spider’, a huntsman spider from Australia, as well as Sunday produce and flea markets. Population wise, a real mix of people from all over the globe.

Let’s do it.

 

Part 1: At the local mosque

Wandering around the shops at Avondale I found a spice shop run by some Afghans. Was there a mosque nearby, I asked. Yes, just up the road, turn left, you can’t miss it, they said.

But I did almost miss it. Because Avondale’s mosque doesn’t look anything like a mosque – more like an oldish school hall without a minaret or dome in sight.

What was very mosque-like, however, were all the people piling into the unassuming building – Afghans, Indonesians, Indians and Somalians, all dressed in their traditional clothes. Swarthy men in white salwar kameez-type suits, caps and keffiyeh scarves. The women covered from head to toe. This was a mosque, no doubt about it.

 

 

the only domes at the Avondale mosque

the only domes at the Avondale mosque

 

 

 

 

a far cry from the mosques of his own country - Wasim, 18, from Afghanistan

a far cry from the mosques of his own country – Wasim, 18, from Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

and more recent ones - Nadia from Ethiopia

and more recent ones – Nadia from Ethiopia

 

 

 

 

the new Kiwi - Gul, originally from Afghanistan

the new Kiwi – Gul, originally from Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

from Afghanistan to Auckland - Hewad and Shahid

from Afghanistan to Auckland – Hewad and Shahid

 

 

 

 

Hewad

Hewad

 

 

 

 

flower girl - Hind from Uzbekistan

flower girl – Hind from Uzbekistan

 

 

 

 

the times of Muslim prayer are determined by the position of the sun

the times of Muslim prayer are determined by the position of the sun

 

 

 

 

Islam in the suburbs

Islam in the suburbs

 

 

 

 

Part 2: From Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to Bangladesh and India

The article I read about the impending shift from white to non-whites said that, between 1986 and 2006, “the numbers born in Asia and now resident in New Zealand increased by 661 per cent, with the Chinese (899.4 per cent) and Indians (841.6 per cent) dominating growth”.

While I certainly saw a huge number of Chinese at the Sunday Avondale markets, I didn’t see that many wandering around the suburb. I did, however, see a lot of people from the Indian subcontinent, including a lovely woman from Bangladesh and another from India. Did they like Auckland and were they fully accepted here? Yes and Yes.

 

 

then and now - Nazreen from Bangladesh

then and now – Nazreen from Bangladesh

 

 

 

 

Bangladeshi Nazreen at the spice shop run by Afghans

Bangladeshi Nazreen at the spice shop run by Afghans

 

 

 

 

successfully transplanted onto NZ soil

successfully transplanted onto NZ soil

 

 

 

 

and more recent ones - Saleha from Gujurat, India

and more recent ones – Saleha from Gujurat, India

 

 

 

With all these people continuing to arrive in NZ from all over the planet, I wondered what the original inhabitants thought – the Maori. Unfortunately I’m none the wiser – the only Maori I met in Avondale was a wonderful man called Jacques. His full face tattoo was so intriguing I completely forgot to ask his opinion on the subject. Instead we discussed his name – his mum named him after Jacques Cousteau because he was the guardian of the sea. Cool.

 

 

recent arrivals and the original ones

recent arrivals and the original ones

 

 

 

 

"I used to be a carver, now I' I'm a truck driver" - Jacques

“I used to be a carver, now I’m a truck driver” – Jacques

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Tonga

While the Chinese and Indians might be pouring into Auckland, the number of overseas-born Pacific people also doubled between 1986 and 2006.

Unlike Samoa which was once administered by New Zealand (1914 to 1962), the kingdom of Tonga, with its 176 islands, has always been independent.

Maybe that’s why the Tongans in Auckland always seem quite regal. Especially when they’re dressed for church, like the ones I met late on a Sunday in Avondale. They’d gathered after church for choir practice as well as a meeting of elders.

 

 

fusion :: 1

fusion :: 1

 

 

 

fusion :: 2

fusion :: 2

 

 

 

 

from the islands

from the islands :: 1

 

 

 

 

from the islands :: 2

from the islands :: 2

 

 

 

 

elders

elders

 

 

 

 

a colourful tale :: 1

a colourful tale :: 1

 

 

 

 

a colourful tale :: 2

a colourful tale :: 2

 

 

 

 

And those wraps around their waists? The women’s decorative waistband is called a kiekie, the men’s, a ta’uvala (which they wear over their tupenu, which is a wrap around skirt with pockets). Both are worn for church.

 

"we wear the skirts to show respect at church" :: 1

“we wear them to show respect at church” :: 1

 

 

 

 

"we wear the skirts to show respect at church" :: 2

“we wear them to show respect at church” :: 2

 

 

 

 

Not that Samoans don’t have a commanding, striking look about them. Check out Samoan John in his church threads, picking us some Chinese takeaway on one of the main shopping roads of Avondale.

 

 

half Western, half Samoan, picking up Chinese takeaway - John, grabbing lunch after church

half Western, half Samoan, picking up Chinese takeaway – John, grabbing lunch after church

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

Everyone I met this week smiled broadly when I asked them how they found their adopted home, Auckland. It reminded me of my travels around some of Sydney’s outer suburbs, where people from around the world are able to start new, productive lives.

Not that it’s all a bed of roses. But while racism and discrimination might exist in suburbs like Avondale, for many people, it’s still a better life than the one they left behind.

Speaking of leaving, we left Auckland on Tuesday, flying off just after sunrise. Peering through the window at the city below, the harbour a perfect sheen, I thought how sad it was that so many tourists would never venture beyond the showy bits, as impressive as they are. If only they shunned the harbour tour and headed inland, to suburbs like Otara and Avondale, they’d see a whole other side of the city. Possibly, dare I say it, a more interesting one.

 

 

 

adios Auckland

adios Auckland

 

 

 

 

aka ditch

aka ditch

 

 

 

 

then and now - Coco in front of a mural depicting old Avondale

then and now – Coco in front of a mural depicting old Avondale

 

 

 

 

island girl

island girl

 

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Coco and I want to say a huge thanks to our Auckland friends, Gay, Mark and Meisha. Not only for housing us these past few weeks, but for endlessly driving me around, feeding us every night, and taking Coco off my hands for most of the time. After a year of juggling this project with being a mum and provider of three meals a day, it was such a relief to have at least one of my jobs taken care of. Aside from that, Coco loved her stay with you guys – as well as beautiful Ruby (dog), Saba (cat) and Coco (cat!). You’re all wonderful!

We arrived in Melbourne yesterday and tomorrow we’ll launch into my first suburb here – suburb No 50. 50! Can you believe it?

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Anna Steiner, Chloe and Monique Leung

See you next week.

 

47

Otara

O intro

 

Kia ora! Welcome to Auckland, city number 11 on 52 Suburbs Around the World.

Considering I’ve lived just three hours away by plane for most of my life, it’s pitiful I’ve never been and knew so little about the place. And I don’t just mean Auckland – all of New Zealand was pretty much a blank to me. I knew it had magnificent mountains, had suffered a terrible earthquake and that Australians like to make fun of the way Kiwis say ‘six’ (childish but fun), but that was about it.

Time to head across the ditch, starting with its most populous city, Auckland, and one of its southern suburbs, Otara.

Otara? One of the poorest areas in Auckland that only a few years ago was ruled by violent gangs and had one of the worst crime rates in New Zealand? That’s where you want to go, the Auckland friends we’re staying with asked. Well yeah. Given I was in the country with the largest Polynesian population in the world, I wanted to check out the Polynesians – Otara was where many of them lived. And anyway, apparently things had improved and despite still being “probably the toughest area of policing in New Zealand” it was much safer.

Some history… Given its remote location at the bottom of the globe, NZ was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans – Maori arrived here only 800 years ago. The first iwi (peoples) of Otara way back then were the Ngāi Tai, who probably lived quite happily in the area with its rich volcanic gardening soils and fresh water springs, doing what their Polynesian ancestors had done for centuries – warring with neighbouring tribes and eating each other. Then about 200 years ago life changed forever with the arrival of Europeans. From the 1850s onwards Otara was settled by British and farmed. After WWII, Otara was developed as a State Housing area.

Okay, let’s go Otara!

 

Part 1: Spirited play – the players

Day one in Otara. It’s completely dead. Nothing and no one stirs. 

Short on patience at this stage in the project, I start to think, nah, bugger Otara, I’m going somewhere else.

My friend, Gay, who’s kindly offered to play chauffeur, suddenly remembers that aside from much of NZ being on holiday, today is also a public holiday. Really? The day after New Year’s Day? While it explains the lack of life, I still can’t handle the nothingness. And then all of a sudden, in the distance, we spot colour and movement – scary gangs? Whatever it is, we’re there.

‘It’ turned out to be a sports field full of hundreds of Samoans, from 20 Methodist churches all around Auckland, in Otara to play Samoan cricket and volleyball. Serious competition in lava-lavas…

 

 

20 churches, 3 days, 1 goal - victory

20 churches, 3 days, 1 goal – victory

 

 

 

 

the team from Papakura

the team from Papakura

 

 

 

 

super-sized, super-colourful cricket bats

super-sized, super-colourful cricket bats

 

 

 

 

Like the rest of Polynesia, meaning ‘many islands’, the Samoans had long ago abandoned their more exotic faiths in the name of just one Christian god.

 

 

many islands, one god

many islands, one god

 

 

 

 

church and sport

church and sport

 

 

 

 

But that didn’t mean they wouldn’t fight tooth and nail to beat each other. These people take their religion and their sport very seriously.

 

 

"Yes, it's very competitive!"

“Yes, it’s very competitive!”

 

 

 

 

"Our duck tattoos represent brotherhood" - Manuka Methodist

“Our duck tattoos represent brotherhood” – Manukau Methodist :: 1

 

 

 

 

"Our duck tattoos represent brotherhood" - Manuka Methodist :: 2

“Our duck tattoos represent brotherhood” – Manukau Methodist :: 2

 

 

 

 

stripes, modern and ancient

stripes, modern and ancient

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Spirited play – the supporters

While the various games were in session, the teams’ supporters were watching them from under their tents, laying or sitting on a variety of colourful woven mats. Not Samoan-made, hand-woven mats mind you. When I asked where they were from, one girl cried out, “The $2 shop!”

Nonetheless, the mats made wonderful backdrops for some portraits. Starting with the Kelston Methodist Church from West Auckland and the cheekiest four year old I think I’ve ever met – Wesley. The sugar-fueled blue lolly he’d just finished was probably not helping.

 

 

Wesley :: 1

Wesley :: 1

 

 

 

 

Wesley :: 2

Wesley :: 2

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

Nancy

Nancy

 

 

 

 

And these soulful young men…

 

 

Pobalu

Pobalu

 

 

 

 

sacred - kava and kids

sacred – kava and kids

 

 

 

 

In the next tent were members of the Papakura church from far south Auckland, where I met more beautiful kids. Like Hildegard with her long long locks (she’s the one in the introductory image at the beginning of the post)…

 

 

Hildegard

Hildegard

 

 

 

 

woven

woven

 

 

 

 

Alysha

Alysha

 

 

 

 

green

green

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Band in the backyard

On our next visit, driving around the back streets of Otara, I thought I heard a band playing. Sure enough, as we turned the next corner, there it was – a dozen or so players, trumpets blaring, right outside one of the weatherboard houses. A moment later they downed tools and left – to drive 100 metres down the street to the next house. Could I follow them? Sure.

 

 

"We go around to all the Tongans in the area and play. It's a bit like people singing carols."

“We go around to all the Tongans in the area and play. It’s a bit like people singing carols.”

 

 

 

 

a band in her backyard

a band in her backyard

 

 

 

 

band in the backyard :: 1

band in the backyard :: 1

 

 

 

 

band in the backyard :: 2

band in the backyard :: 2

 

 

 

 

band in the backyard :: 3

band in the backyard :: 3

 

 

 

 

band in the backyard :: 4

band in the backyard :: 4

 

 

 

 

I loved the blend of traditional woven skirts with white shirts and blaring trumpets, but it wasn’t easy capturing the boys. Aside from being in a mad rush to press on to the next house once they’d finished their tunes, they really didn’t know what to make of me – I guess it’s not every day a Pākehā (white person) turns up in Otara and shoves a big camera in your face.

 

 

a touch of tradition

a touch of tradition

 

 

 

 

Part 4: The proud Maori and his moko

After the band, we left to explore more of the neighbourhood. I don’t know what I noticed first when I met Pawi – his beach buggy ripping along the pavement or his moko, facial tattoo.

 

 

Pawi with three of his nine kids

Pawi with three of his nine kids

 

 

 

 

Pawi is a proud Maori but one of the most gentle men you’d ever meet. Yet when I look at the close-up of his face now, I can imagine he might look a little scary if you met him walking down the street.

I asked Pawi how painful it was to get the moko done, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being insanely painful. “Out of 10? 12, especially the area between your lip and nose”.

Pawi’s wife, Tracey, also endured the pain to get a moko kauae – chin tattoo – based on the one her grandmother had. Neither of them regret it; although they do get some funny looks from time to time, from Maori as well as non-Maori, it’s important to them as a way of keeping their traditions alive.

 

 

"Getting a moko is about keeping our traditions alive"

“Getting a moko is about keeping our traditions alive”

 

 

 

 

Aside from the tattoos, Pawi is active in kapa haka, Maori performing arts, as well as carving greenstone. And he and Tracey, who’s a fifth generation flax weaver, have a weaving business.

 

 

"I'm half Samoan and half Maori but I feel more Maori" - Pawi

“hand-woven” :: 1

 

 

 

 

"I'm half Samoan and half Maori but I feel more Maori" :: 2

“hand-woven” :: 2

 

 

 

 

The couple have a total of nine kids, ranging from a 19 year old son that Pawi had at the tender age of 14, to two year old Tareta. But soon it’ll be ten – Tracey is pregnant. Life must be busy.

 

 

two year old Tareta

two year old Tareta

 

 

 

 

As I went to leave, I shook Pawi’s hand – in return he gave me my first hongi, the traditional Maori greeting, or parting in this case, where you’re meant to touch noses and foreheads. Only I got a little confused and went a little Eskimo with it, rubbing his nose instead of just touching. What a wally.

 

 

Part 5: Market day

Aside from being infamous for high levels of poverty and crime, Otara is also a little bit famous. For the 1995 hit single, How Bizarre, by local hip-hop artists OMC (Otara Millionaires’ Club). And for the weekly Saturday market…

 

 

Otara Market day

Otara Market day

 

 

 

 

more patterns - Lydia

more patterns – Lydia

 

 

 

 

Poko, from the Cook Islands, wearing an eis

Poko, from the Cook Islands, wearing an eis

 

 

 

 

I noticed Amon, below, from a distance. Well, I noticed his muscles, tattooed to the hilt. He was at the markets with his girlfriend, having a nice relaxing time – until I stopped him and asked him to whip his shirt off so I could photograph his torso. As I snapped away, Amon explained that he was mostly Tongan with some German and English as well. His job? An agent for rugby league players.

 

 

Amon

Amon

 

 

 

 

"They're the names of my three kids"

“They’re the names of my three kids”

 

 

 

 

hills and valleys

hills and valleys

 

 

 

 

little league vs big league

little league vs big league

 

 

 

 

Part 6: More tattoos

Not long after meeting Amon, I met Toa, a handsome and heavily tattooed Samoan. Uncomfortable with the idea of taking his shirt off in public – “My wife may not like it!” – Toa invited me to his house in neighbouring Clover Park a few hours later to take some shots.

Tattoos are big in Samoa, literally – Toa has a pe’a, the traditional male tattoo of Samoa, covering the body all the way from the waist to the knees, as well as some on his upper torso. In fact, the word tattoo apparently originated from the Polynesian word tatau.

Toa explained that most of his tattoos had been done by the traditional, incredibly painful method – I read later that those who can withstand the pain are hugely respected for their courage in the community.

While they look highly decorative, they’re not – the designs are symbolic and relate to Toa’s status in the community as well as to traditional concepts of strength and travel.

Toa and his wife have four kids, the youngest being one year old Taelin. The perfect accompaniment to Toa’s striking tattoos…

 

 

Taelin and Toa :: 1

Taelin and Toa :: 1

 

 

 

 

Taelin and Toa :: 2

Taelin and Toa :: 2

 

 

 

 

At some point during our little shoot at the side of his house, Toa told me he was actually a chief of his Samoan village, Lefaga Matautu. And that his wife and kids and everyone in the Samoan community all called him by his chief name, Lemalu. Should I too, I asked? It was the least I could do after getting a chief to strip down to his lava-lava and show me his tats. 

 

 

the hongi

the hongi

 

 

 

 

"I'm actually a chief"

“the design is only given to chiefs”

 

 

 

 

"My wife and kids call me by my chief name, Lemalu"

“they symbolise strength and travel across water”

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

So that was Otara, one of Auckland’s ‘worst’ suburbs. Look, the place isn’t postcard pretty. In fact, parts of it were downright scungy. And it would be silly to think nothing sinister happened there, even if it has moved on from its recent dark past. But I have to say, I found the place pretty interesting despite barely scratching the surface. Mainly in the way the Samoan, Tongan and Maori communities continue to keep their cultures alive, even if it means 12 out of 10 pain. Although there is one practice I’m relieved they appear to have dropped – that eating each other business sounded pretty outrageous.

 

 

 

 

black sand

black sand

 

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

It’s been a while since Coco and I haven’t been together 24/7. But this week I barely saw the girl. While my friend Gay and I were roaming the streets of Otara, Coco was busy doing kid things with Gay’s partner, Mark, and teenage daughter, Meisha. The only time I’ve seen her was when we all took a few hours off to visit one of Auckland’s black sand beaches, Piha.

Aside from that, I haven’t been firing on all cylinders this week. After months of good health I finally succumbed to a bad cold and chest thing and have been dragging myself around, trying not to spread the infernal germs. My excuse anyway if this entire post makes not one jot of sense!

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Annette Murphy

See you next week.

 

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