Celebrate Race Relations Day, support our Assyrian community

race relations day 2015New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth and we are also one of the most peaceful: it’s up to everyday New Zealanders to ensure this is a legacy we leave for future generations. Race Relations Day reminds us all of the crucial role positive race relations and human rights play in our communities and lives.

Every 21st March, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination marks the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre when 69 black South African citizens – including 10 children – were shot to death by their own Police for protesting against racial apartheid laws. In New Zealand, communities across the country host hundreds of events on and around the 21st of March to mark Race Relations Day.

bellbirdThis year’s Race Relations Day theme “Big Change Starts Small” was created by a Vietnamese Kiwi who had lived in Auckland for less than a year when he won last year’s Race Unity Speech Competition.

“Secondary school student Thai An Vo’s winning speech captures the spirit of positive race relations and human rights: Big Change Starts Small,” says Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

“Positive race relations don’t just live in a document at the United Nations, they must live in our communities, suburbs and lives.”

This year’s te reo Maori theme is the proverb “Itiiti Rearea, Kahika Teitei, Ka Taea” – “The smallest bellbird is able to climb to the heights of the tallest Kahika tree.”

“New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth and yet we are also one of the most peaceful nations on the planet. This is something I’m grateful for and proud of but it’s also something we can’t take for granted,” said Dame Susan.

Escalator Press, a new Wellington publisher, and Wellington Libraries are presenting a special event for Race Relations Day,
Hear Kate Carty speak about her compelling new novel Run Thomas Run, set in Iraq and England.

Meet Sarjon Warde and other Assyrians, and hear about thie exceptional history, their current situation in Iraq, and their vibrant Wellington Community.

6.30-7.30pm, Thursday 26 March
Ruth Gotlieb Library, Kilbirnie.

This is a free event, all welcome!

Syndetics book coverRun Thomas run / Kate Carty.
“A wedding, a poem, a shortcut home – what happens next will shake Thomas Odishu, wife Esther and children Ramina and George to the core. For this is Iraq in 1991 and there are no such things as coincidences. Informants are everywhere and once you’ve had a run-in with Saddam’s regime, your only chance of survival is escape. But no matter how hard you run, the past is always there, right behind you. Set in Iraq and England over three decades, Run Thomas Run is the gripping story of a father’s contorted love, a daughter’s coming of age, guilt, redemption and a child’s promise made forty years earlier that should never have been kept.” (Syndetics summary)

We have some beautiful books in our collection about the Assyrian language, history and art. Have a look at these:

Syndetics book coverThe church of the East : an illustrated history of Assyrian Christianity / Christoph Baumer.
“Christoph Baumer is one of the very few Westerners to have visited many of the most important Assyrian sites, and has written the only comprehensive history of the “Nestorian” (or Apostolic Assyrian) Church, which now fights for survival in its country of origin, Iraq. He traces its apostolic beginnings to the present day, and discusses the Church’s theology, christology and uniquely vigorous spirituality. He analyzes the Church’s turbulent relationship with other Christian chuches and itsdialogue with neighboring world religions such as Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism. Richly illustrated with maps and over 150 full-color photographs, the book will be essential reading for those interested in a fascinating but neglected Christian community which has profoundly shaped the history of civilization in both East and West.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAssyrian palace sculptures / Paul Collins ; with photography by Lisa Baylis and Sandra Marshall.
“Between the ninth and seventh centuries BC the small kingdom of Assyria in northern Iraq expanded through conquest to dominate the region from Egypt to Iran. The power of the Assyrian kings was reflected in the creation of a series of magnificent palaces in which the walls of principal rooms and courtyards were lined with huge panels of alabaster carved with images of the monarch as priest, victorious warrior and hunter. Together, the sculptures constitute some of the most impressive and eloquent witnesses of the ancient Middle East. This book serves as a superb visual introduction to what are undoubtedly some of the greatest works of art from the ancient world, showcasing a series of specially taken photographs of the British Museum’s unrivalled collection of Assyrian sculptures.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrom Nineveh to New York : the strange story of the Assyrian reliefs in the Metropolitan Museum and the hidden masterpiece at Canford School / John Malcolm Russell, with contributions by Judith McKenzie and Stephanie Dalley
“The story of Sir Austen Henry Layard’s rediscovery of ancient Assyria and its fabled capital, Nineveh, is one of the great tales of the 19th century. No less remarkable is the story of the collection, dispersal and then re-acquisition in the 20th century of the world’s greatest Assyrian collection ever to be in private hands.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA history of the ancient Near East, c. 3000-323 BC / Marc van de Mieroop.
“This book presents a clear, concise history of the extraordinarily multicultural civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Beginning with the emergence of writing around 3000 BC, the narrative ranges from the origins of the first cities in Mesopotamia, through the growth of the Babylonian and Hittite kingdoms, to the Assyrian and Persian empires. It ends with the transformation of the Ancient Near East by the conquests of Alexander the Great. A straightforward and concise narrative of the complex history of the ancient Near East. Addresses political, social, and cultural developments. Contains in-depth discussion of key texts and sources, including the Bible and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Includes a selection of Near Eastern texts in translation. Accompanied by plentiful maps and illustrations.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeginner’s Assyrian / D.G. Lyon.
“This book includes a detailed outline of Assyrian grammar, transliterated texts, an extensive glossary and a comprehensive list of alphabets. Aramaic is also known as Assyrian and knowledge of it is a must for any serious scholar of the bible. The instruction guide is designed for those intere4sted in learning to read the language.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIntroductory Assyrian grammar / Samuel A.B. Mercer.
A passport to an important language of the ancient world, this grammar presents an introduction to Assyrian, a linguistic relative of Hebrew that derives from the northern group of Semitic languages. The Assyro-Babylonian language emerged as long ago as 3000 b.c., and remained in use until the first century before the Christian era, after which it disappeared until the nineteenth century. A wealth of archeological work since then has uncovered thousands of examples of the language, and with this concise treatment, students of archeology, anthropology, and world history study the language’s complexities. Both simple and well supplied with exercises, the text divides grammar and syntax into chapter-by-chapter lessons.

Author talk: meet Adrienne Jansen

ada-author-talkOn Thursday 20 March, starting at 6pm at the Central Library, we will have a special celebration for Race Relations Day! Meet Adrienne Jansen and Samson Sahele – these two very different writers will cast their eye on New Zealand’s multicultural society and talk about their own work and about writing together. They will be joined by refugee youth who will read poems from Walking with a Fragile Heart. Well-known musican Sam Manzanza will start this event with his amazing drumming!

I have introduced you to Samson a few days ago, now meet Adrienne!

Adrienne is a writer, editor and teacher. She is a fourth generation New Zealander and lives in Titahi Bay, Porirua. She loves the physical beauty of the area and is a very strong Porirua supporter enjoying its diversity.
Adrienne Jansen writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She has lived and worked among immigrants in New Zealand for many years, and her writing draws strongly on that experience. She wrote the text for The Crescent Moon: Asian Face of Islam in New Zealand, with photography by Ans Westra. Her latest novel The Score is about messy lives, shaky pasts and even shakier futures. Adrienne founded the Whitireia Polytechnic Creative Writing Programme, and was its coordinator until 1999. She now teaches fiction and editing on the programme, and has written several of its online courses. She is part of the writing team at Te Papa, New Zealand’s National Museum, and does some freelance work.

But there is so much more!  Have a look here on the Book Council website.

I asked Adrienne about her hobbies and favourite movies and authors. One thing we both enjoy is a love of Moroccan food. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she has been working with Abdel El Adraoui from the Marrakech Cafe on his new cookbook Abdel’s Favourites from the Marrakech Café. You may remember Adbel from my post on our Communities Stories and Traditions page.

One favourite film of Adrienne is the French comedy The Intouchables. Our library catalogue has this summary: “An irreverent, uplifting comedy about friendship, trust, and human possibility. Based on a true story of friendship between a handicapped millionaire and his street-smart ex-con caretaker, The Intouchables depicts an unlikely camaraderie rooted in honesty and humor between two individuals who, on the surface, would seem to have nothing in common.”

Favourite author: it changes depending on what Adrienne is reading, but she is a great fan of Australian writer Tim Winton. Especially his novel Syndetics book coverCloudstreet :  “[this novel] concerns the everyday lives of two country families who move to the city. ‘It pulses with a sense of wonder and shines with the clear light of truth’ – P Robert Drewe.” (Syndetics summary)

I am very excited about this author talk on Thursday, hope you can make it! A great opportunity to meet very different writers, there will be plenty of opportunity for questions. Remember this is a free event at the Central Library, starting at 6pm.

Author Talk – Samson Sahele

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Celebrate Race Relations Day and meet Samson Sahele and Adrienne Jansen! These two very different writers will cast their eye on New Zealand’s multicultural society and talk about their own work and about writing together.  This is a FREE event – no need to book and will be held at Central Library in Victoria Street Thursday March 20 from 6-7 pm. Well known musician Sam Manzanza will launch the event with his amazing drumming skills!

Samson cropIn this post I would like to introduce you to Samson. Samson was a journalist in Ehtiopia when he had to flee for his life. His journey as a political refugee took him through four African countries before spending two and half years in South Africa. He arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2000.
I first met Samson back in 2007 at Newtown library when his community were looking for a place to celebrate their very special Ethiopian Millenium! I invited them to have this event at the library and organise a display about their ancient culture! We even had a special Ethiopian coffee ceremony, best coffee ever!
Samson works at Refugee Trauma Recovery. which is a non-governmental organisation offering confidential and free services to former refugees and their families in Wellington. They provide specialist mental health services for those who have experienced trauma and torture, and deliver capacity building for their families and community. More information about this organisation.

etiopian millennium 020aSamson is the driving force behind creative writing workshops for young refugees, and the resulting publications, Earthless Trees, Beyond the Dark Journey and Walking with a Fragile Heart. Dame Fiona Kidman has been a supporter of all three books including attending writing workshops with the young authors. Samson also published a poetry collection Journey with My Shadow. Dame Fiona Kidman writes in the preface, “This book represents Samson’s own journey, from the beloved and beautiful Ethiopia of his childhood to Aotearoa, New Zealand. It is a journey, in one sense, from lightness and enchantment, to a safe, but perhaps, by contrast, more grey land. In between, there is an account of intolerable darkness and should be compulsory reading for anyone who wishes to learn how war has destroyed some parts of the African continent.” Dame Kidman concludes with: “As New Zealand, Aotearoa becomes increasingly multi-cultural, it would be well for us to learn more of these flights, taken in fear and with regret from beloved homelands. In order to offer a land that welcomes people from other cultures, we need to understand better that which has gone before. Journey with my Shadow offers this oppurtunity. I highly recommend Samson’s book.”

I asked Samson what he likes doing in his spare time and no surprises there. He likes supporting the community, reading, and listening to music, especially Ethiopian music and Reggae. Also enjoys walking and following our global current affairs.

Do join us on the 20 March at Central library celebrating Race Relations Day, this will be a very interesting session, we are looking forward to seeing you there!
Next post I will introduce you to Adrienne Jansen.

Race Relations Day Author Talk

rrd2014 posterRace Relations Day, 21 March, marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is celebrated around the world. Wellington City Libraries is a proud participant in the Diversity in Action Programme facilitated by the Human Rights Commission. The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme is a community initiative. It began in 2004, in response to the outrage at the desecration of Jewish community gravesites in Wellington. The programme has been active in promoting and encouraging positive race relations.

The 2014 theme in New Zealand is “I am Aotearoa New Zealand…te ranga tahi, together we grow.” This year’s poster features portraits from six of New Zealand’s top illustrators (clockwise from top left): Max Thompson, Rebecca Kereopa, Rebecca Terborg, Angus Gomes, Donna Cross and Henrietta Harris.

stacked-nz-diversity-logo-webThis year we are celebrating Race Relations Day with a free author talk – in conversation with Samson Sahele and Adrienne Jansen. These two very different writers will cast their eye on New Zealand’s multicultural society and talk about their own work and about writing together. They will be joined by refugee youth who will read poems from Walking with a Fragile Heart. This is a free event and will be held at the Wellington Central Library, Thursday 20 March 6-7 pm. Well known musician Sam Manzanza will play the drum at the beginning of this session calling you all to attend! Pencil this in your diary now! Next post I will tell you more about the authors.

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“My dream for Aotearoa New Zealand is…

click for larger version of the Race Relations Day poster
the theme for Race Relations Day 2013. Held each year on 21 March, the day marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Wellington City Libraries is a participant in The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme, which is a community initiative. It began in 2004, in response to the outrage at the desecration of Jewish community gravesites in Wellington. The Programme has been active in promoting and encouraging positive race relations.

The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme brings together organisations taking practical initiatives to:

  1. recognise and celebrate the cultural diversity of our society
  2. promote the equal enjoyment by everyone of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, regardless of race, colour, ethnicity, religion or national origin
  3. foster harmonious relations between diverse peoples
  4. fulfil the promise of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Programme is facilitated by the Human Rights Commission on behalf of participants.

Do you have a vision what our country should be like for future generations? Share your thoughts on our Community Stories and Traditions page!

At Newtown Library we are asking adults and children what their dreams are. All their thoughts are displayed on the tree in the tent and will be forwarded to the Human Rights Commission. Here are some of their thoughts:
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A Festival of Cultures in the North

Race Relations Week was celebrated at Johnsonville Library through a Festival of Cultures attended by more than 60 people on Friday 19th March.

All the librarians and most of the guests and children from a local   kindergarten were dressed in their national costume.

A showcase of rich cultural performances from the different members of the community highlighted the event – a traditional Chinese Guzheng instrument, originally shipped from China, played beautiful music pieces performed by Cris and an Ethiopian Traditional Coffee Ceremony was described and interpreted by Taitu, one of the librarians.

The children loved the story telling by Veronica and the amazing paper cutting crafts by Yu. The event was also attended by Johnsonville Community Centre ESOL class & the Chinese Senior Community.

Pulcinella comes to the East Cluster Libraries

As part of Race Relations Week, Miramar and Kilbirnie libraries played host to the famous Italian puppet, Pulcinella, cousin to the English Punch. His friends, Teresina, La Morte (Death), Fred and the Black Sheep came along too.

Anna Bailey, our puppeteering librarian, gave the traditional tale a NZ twist, when Pulcinella left his darling Teresina and her delicious pizza for an ill fated trip to NZ. What with a cannibal sheep and a visit by Death it wasn’t a story for the faint hearted.

The brave students from St Pats, Holy Cross and Miramar Central and a few fearless preschoolers were a wonderful audience. They played there role to the max, yelling encouragement to Pulcinella, booing the Black Sheep and La Morte and laughing at all the silly goings on.

All in all it was a very raucous but enjoyable morning in both libraries.

Earth People at Newtown Library!

On Wed 17th March Newtown Library had two Aoga Amata (Samoan preschool) groups with 30 children come and attend our Earth People fun. They were aged mostly 3-4 years old.

The kids listened to a multicultural storytime in English, Chinese and Samoan, then had a morning tea, before making Earth People with our resident artist Marg Elliot.

The Aoga Amata groups were from the Pacific Islanders’ Congregational Church and the Saint Anne’s AA.

Have a look at their results and some photos of the morning!

Miep Gies dies

Miep Gies, who helped Anne Frank hide, died January 11 at the age of 100. She was the last survivor of a small group of people who helped the Jewish family hide from the Nazis during World War II. It was Miep who found Anne’s diary after the family’s hiding place was discovered and they were deported to concentration camps. She never read the diary and kept it for safe keeping and handed it to Anne’s father Otto after the war.

Ada Nally, WCL’s Multicultural Customer Specialist said on hearing of Gies’ death

I will never forget my school trip as a ten year old to the secret annex. Anne’s description of her hiding place came alive as we passed the bookcase which hid the staircase leading to Anne’s living areas. The pictures of famous Hollywood movie stars at that time are still on her bedroom wall. I have read Anne’s diary several times and still prefer to read it in Dutch.

Did you know that the most popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam is not the museum, the canals or dare I say the red light district? It is the Anne Frank museum.

The Anne Frank exhibition will tour New Zealand this year, starting at Te Papa in February. For more details: www.annefrankexhibition.co.nz

Anne Frank’s story to the world is a warning of the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination, and is an assertion of the values of freedom, equal rights and democracy. Wellington City Libraries holds several copies of the diary and other books about Anne Frank, including Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies –  click on the links to the left for details.

March 21 is Race Relations Day and Wellington City Libraries will host a festival of cultures at Johnsonville library, book displays and continue with Earth People at several libraries. For more information visit our Earth people blog in February and March. The theme this year is: “It’s About Us: Whanau”.

Race Relations Day 2008

Each year, 21 March is observed around the world as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The theme this year is “We all sit under the same stars”. Because Race Relations Day falls on Good Friday, the official day of celebration will be Tuesday, 18 March.

What’s on offer?

There will be activities and displays on at Wellington libraries for the whole week (17 to 20 March). A full schedule of events is available on our kids’ Events page – we’ll be making earth people, putting on performances and activities and much more!