Starting a new life
Various support groups were formed in the 1990s. Pan-African clubs (African Association of Auckland, Africa Association of New Zealand in Wellington) serve the wider community. Groups have also formed around nationality (Somali Friendship Society), ethnicity (Oromo Community) and religion (Islamic Ahlulbayt Foundation of New Zealand).
Shukri Abi arrived as a refugee in 1993. Nine years later she graduated with a BSc in pharmacology from Auckland University. While she shares many interests with other young New Zealand women, she longs to see her relatives back in Somalia.
‘There’s something missing … I feel my life would not be complete unless I go back and have a look. …The book is still open. I can’t close it unless I go back. Wherever my future takes me, New Zealand will be my home – and Somalia will be my home as well.’ 1
Coming from war zones to a developed country with a different culture and climate is a daunting task. Many refugees have experienced severe trauma and arrive after long and dangerous journeys. Those from countries in the Horn of Africa (such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan) are often single women with large families and no relatives to provide support. Many are burdened with debt and struggle to meet the travel costs for family reunification. Relatives back in Africa often expect to receive money.
Many immigrants have little or no formal education. English language programmes have had low success rates, and yet without knowing the language, newcomers feel excluded from society. Many of the professionals who arrived in the 2000s were frustrated by registration requirements and the lack of recognition of their qualifications. They often had to undertake further study to gain accreditation.
Africans have occasionally suffered discrimination, harassment and violence; in 1998 a Hamilton mosque was gutted in an arson attack. Tensions have also erupted within African groups. Some Somali Aucklanders were charged with murders in 2003.
Immigrants have introduced African drumming and dance and, with the influence of black American culture, popularised hairstyles such as braiding. Resident musicians Sam Manzanza (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Paul Ubana Jones (England/Nigeria) have entertained Kiwis for many years. African football players have helped inject flair into the Wellington and Canterbury club scene.