A network of young people are taking a positive approach to developing an African-New Zealand identity that has much to offer society. Lauren Mentjox reports.
Brook Shiferaw always wanted to do something for young Africans living in New Zealand.
Her dream has become reality with the launch of Nileflow.com, the country's first web-based network of people creatively engaged in exploring and developing African-New Zealand identity and culture.
Brook, who arrived in New Zealand 10 years ago as a refugee from Ethiopia, hopes the online community will become a place where young Africans can talk about who they are and create opportunities for themselves. "We are not focusing on one culture or a sport," she says. "Our interest is between Africans and New Zealand, and we're trying to explore our identity here."
Brook, a graduate of Auckland University's Elam art school, says life in New Zealand can be difficult for younger African immigrants as they grapple with questions about their identity.
"You're held up to be African, but you are Kiwi at the same time, as opposed to being one or the other," she says. "And because most Africans came here as refugees they still think of themselves in that way, so we want to escape that background and do something for ourselves.
"We want to tap into the pool of talent we have in the visual and performing arts and give people a chance to show off."
Brook says the group is not limited to teens but will appeal to younger people simply because it is online and has a Facebook group. At present, members range in age from 18 to late-20s and hail from countries such as Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, plus those from the Caribbean and Europe who identify themselves as as African. Locals who find African culture interesting are also involved, she says. "We like the idea that for there to be this kind of African presence in New Zealand it will become something great."
Nileflow has designed a collection of T-shirts with the word Jafa, for "Just another fine African", on them. For more info, visit www.nileflow.com