Simon Draper's
March 2019 Update

Kia ora koutou. It’s a privilege to be able to announce the Foundation’s new Māori name, Te Whītau Tūhono.
Asia New Zealand Foundation's logo incorporating it's Maori name

The Foundation's new Māori expression reflects our work bringing people and communities together

The expression brings together tūhono (bond, connectedness, unity) with the strength of the fibrous part of flax, whītau. It was gifted to us by Te Reo advocate and educator Hokimoana Te Rika-Hekerangi, of Ruatāhana within Ngāi Tūhoe, who chose it to reflect the work the Foundation does in bringing people and communities together. Hokimoana is the mentor of the Foundation’s Māori adviser, Tania Te Whenua.

Adopting a Māori expression for the Foundation is part of our commitment to further embed Māori engagement into our work, with a vision of weaving it into our everyday practice. It was process that we started in 2017 at Tāheke Marae in Rotorua where staff, board members and members of the Leadership Network’s Te Kahui Māori (Māori caucus) gathered to discuss how to begin this journey. One of the commitments we made at Tāheke Marae was the adoption of a Māori expression of our name.

Our research tells us many New Zealanders lack confidence in engaging with Asia and Asian peoples. Being able to articulate and understand one’s own identity and place in the world is an important part of building confidence to engage internationally as well. One example of this is our business interns who have recently travelled to Asia – they have been particularly positive about the tikanga sessions given to them as part of their pre-departure briefing.

This Māori expression is an important addition to our work as the Foundation marks its 25th anniversary this year. We see it as an important step towards a more inclusive Foundation that reaches out to a wider audience and better represents all New Zealanders.

Honorary advisers share 25th anniversary cake cutting

Sir Don McKinnon and Philip Burdon cutting the cake marking the Foundation's 25 anniversary

Sir Don McKinnon and Philip Burdon cutting the Foundation's 25th anniversary cake

We were pleased to be able to get our New Zealand-based Honorary Advisers and two of our Asia Honorary Advisers together a couple of weeks ago for an update on our work and to discuss the New Zealand-Asia relationship. We also celebrated our 25th year as an organisation with a cake-cutting by Sir Don McKinnon and Philip Burdon, who worked together to establish the Foundation in 1994.

Te Ao Maori report launched

This month we launched our research report Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples from a Te Ao Māori Perspective. This is an addition to our annual tracking survey of New Zealanders’ perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples, which we’ve been carrying out since 1997.

A slide from the Te Ao Maori report

Māori have a strong affinity with Asian cultures through shared similar values around things such as family, ancestral connections, and ritual.

As I mentioned in my Stuff column last week, the research shows Māori have a strong affinity with Asian cultures through shared similar values around things such as family, ancestral connections, and ritual. These similarities mean Māori have an edge when it comes to forging ties in Asia in areas such as the arts, business, education and diplomacy.

However, despite this sense of familiarity that many Māori have with Asian cultures, they also reported having low knowledge of Asian peoples and cultures. This is where the Foundation can play a role – to provide Māori with opportunities to grow their confidence in and knowledge of Asia and its peoples.

The report was picked up by a number of media organisations and we’ve been pleased with the reception from stakeholders. It’s an excellent and heartening piece of research and I encourage you to have a read. It’s also a starting point for the Asia New Zealand Foundation to strengthen its Māori engagement, and we’re looking forward to having further conversations with Māori around the country. 

Welcome to our new director of research and engagement

It’s my pleasure to welcome our new director engagement and research Suzannah Jessep to the Asia New Zealand Foundation team.

Suzannah brings with her a wealth of Asia knowledge, especially about South Asia. She is joining us having served as New Zealand’s Deputy High Commissioner to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and Deputy Ambassador to Nepal and as New Zealand’s Deputy High Commissioner to Vanuatu. 

Suzannah will be out and about meeting people engaged in her area, so hopefully some of you will get a chance to meet her in the not-to-distant future.

Auckland and South Island lantern festivals

Watch a short video of lantern festival performers performing at Burnside High School in Christchurch

I'm running out of space to add too much about the lantern festivals, but I'd like to quickly acknowledge all the hard work that went into making them a great success. I'd particularly like to acknowledge the performers who came from China to perform at the festivals and who travelled with our education team to schools in Auckland, Timaru and Christchurch to share their talents with local school children. 

The Dreamer

Finally, I’d like to encourage Aucklanders and visitors to the city between 21-24 March to try and make it along to The Dreamer – a play inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and 16th Century Chinese tragicomedy the Peony Pavilion. The Foundation supported the production with an arts project grant, which support New Zealand professional arts organisations bring Asian arts to New Zealand audiences.

Noho ora mai

Simon Draper