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Asia:NZ September Media e-Newsletter

Media e-Newsletter

September 2006

Kia ora, selamat datang and welcome to September edition of the Asia New Zealand Foundation media newsletter. In this issue, we feature the Preparing for a Future with Asia summit held earlier this month and preview the Diwali Festivals of Lights in Auckland and Wellington in October. The Asia:NZ website has been upgraded and is intended as a resource for journalists, researchers and the public. You can find it at www.asianz.org.nz

In this issue

•Asia coverage sporadic and problematic, says PM
•Getting immigration balance right
• South Asia media travel awards
• Asia internships for AUT journalism students
• Bird flu documentary makes ABU finals
• Asia in Australian schools
• Diwali bursts into light in Auckland, Wellington
• Juggling legend a Diwali highlight
• Festivals to showcase rare Indian art form
• Globetrotting play touches down in Auckland
• Dazzling diyas – traditional Indian lamps
• Website easier, simpler, more useful
• Chinese pianist to honour NZ composer
• There once was a place called Burma

Asia coverage sporadic and problematic, says PM

Coverage of Asia in the New Zealand news media is intermittent and the lack of New Zealand-employed correspondents based in Asia is a problem, says Prime Minister Helen Clark.

She made the comments to an audience of about 70 leaders in the business, education, media and arts sectors at the Preparing for Future with Asia Summit at Te Papa, Wellington, on September 14. The event was organised by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

But while there had been some good reporting of Asian matters in recent years, particularly in business reporting, Miss Clark said the withdrawal at the end of last year of TVNZ’s Hong Kong-based journalist was “very disappointing”.

“International cable news channels – while they can be highly informative – do not necessarily serve our needs. What we need is news which is New Zealand-relevant and able to offer a New Zealand perspective on what is happening.”

She said there was a demand for information which goes beyond market intelligence, to analysis of the underlying trends and changes occurring in the region.

“More in-depth reporting from Asia would assist businesses with their long term strategies, as well as lifting our understanding of the complex global business environment.”

Miss Clark also noted that Asia will feature prominently next year in activities around Export Year. Participation and leadership by business and industry will be critical, with the government’s role being to facilitate initiatives developed by and for the business community.

Asia:NZ chair Sir Dryden Spring said participants at the summit demonstrated a clear commitment towards making the massive shift in attitude if New Zealand was going to be successful in its engagement with the Asian region.

“By identifying the obstacles to change, we can bring about the required attitudinal shift towards Asia in incremental steps and realise the vision set out in the report of an Asia-literate New Zealand by the year 2020.”

Participants were able to agree on a number of immediate action areas and identify a range of valuable proposals that could be considered later.

Sir Dryden said Asia:NZ was genuinely trying to find a way forward with partnerships throughout all sectors to drive this agenda forward. The focus on the event was on the next 12 to 18 months and looking to set measurable steps towards achieving recommendations outlined in the report.

“This was achieved, particularly in the education, media and culture sectors with some clear steps determined. More work is necessary in business. Asia:NZ is planning a business focused event next year, Action Asia, which will link with Export Year 2007.”

He said the foundation would continue to play a leading role in bringing these sectors together regularly to work towards addressing the recommendations highlighted in the report.

Getting immigration balance right

Against a back-drop of an aging workforce and skill shortages in New Zealand, striking the ‘right’ balance with immigration remains a high priority on the government’s agenda.

Providing for the needs of our workforce cannot be separated from engaging migrant communities into New Zealand society – and this involves a two-way adaptation.

Since 2002 there have been a number of policy shifts which have led to changes in the composition of migrants – most notably an increase in the number of migrants from Europe and a decrease from the Asian region.

A recent paper by Asia:NZ considers the risks to New Zealand from such changes and suggests strategies by which we can support better outcomes for new migrants as well as continue to look forward to the country’s future and emerging identity.

The complete paper can be accessed at www.asianz.org.nz from September 27.

South Asia media travel awards

The Asia:NZ 2006 media travel awards for South Asia have gone to Charmian Smith of the Otago Daily Times and Ryan Hutchings, a freelance RNZ programme maker.

Both intend to travel to India in the next few months to research a number of interesting story ideas.

Charmian Smith is a senior feature writer with the Dunedin-based daily and Ryan Hutchings is an Auckland-based freelance documentary television and radio programme maker.

Bird flu documentary makes ABU finals

A Radio New Zealand documentary on Vietnam’s efforts to control bird flu is one of the finalists at this year’s Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) awards.

The Insight documentary entitled Wings of Ill Omen: Bird Flu in Vietnam was written, edited and produced by Sue Ingram and was broadcast on December 18.

Ms Ingram’s trip to Vietnam to research the programme was funded by an Asia:NZ media travel award in last year’s Southeast Asia round.

The winner for each category will be announced at the 43rd ABU General Assembly which will be held in Beijing from November 7 to 9.

The finalists of this year’s ABU awards were selected from a total of 211 entries for radio and TV, the most since the awards since it was introduced in 1964.

Asia internships for AUT journalism students

Journalism students at AUT University will now be able to apply for internships in Jakarta and Beijing, an initiative organised by AUT’s School of Communications Studies and supported by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Three annual internships are now available – two at the China Daily in Beijing and one at The Jakarta Post. The work placements are preferably for AUT journalism graduates or those about to graduate.

AUT's Associate Professor David Robie welcomed the new Asia New Zealand Foundation internships, saying this was a significant development for AUT journalism.

"We are introducing a new Asia-Pacific Journalism course next year and the new Jakarta and Beijing internships will significantly strengthen our international affairs training opportunities."

Each of the successful applicants will also qualify for an Asia:NZ scholarship. The China Daily also offers a living allowance and accommodation under an existing arrangement with the AUT’s School of Communications Studies.

The new internships also add to Asia:NZ’s Massey University School of Journalism scholarships that currently supports internships for Massey journalism graduates at the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and the Shanghai Daily in China.

Asia:NZ media adviser Charles Mabbett says the AUT initiative will help address the need for more New Zealand journalists with Asia experience.

“As it says in our Preparing for a Future with Asia report, levels of general knowledge about Asia within newsrooms are low, and this is one way to try and address that, by developing a pool of up and coming journalists who have spent time working in Asian countries.”

More information can be found by visiting this link: www.aut.ac.nz/schools/communication_studies/scholarships.htm

Asia in Australian schools

The campaign in Australia to increase the teaching of Asian studies in schools is no longer dependent on the need to explain why the Asian region is so important, according to a recent Radio New Zealand documentary.

RNZ education correspondent Gael Woods researched the half hour Insight documentary during an Asia New Zealand Foundation-funded trip to Australia in July this year.

Her interviews indicated that most teachers and education leaders, and the public in general, now accept the need to give priority to Asian studies.

This sea change in opinion is reflected by a joint federal and state government initiative to sign off on a national policy statement entitled Engaging Young Australians with Asia earlier this year.

Kathe Kirby, the executive director Australia’s Asia Education Foundation, told RNZ that her organisation was perceived as a fringe lobby group in 1993 but Australians had since come a long way in recognising the importance of becoming better engaged with the region.

“It was clear the business community had no question about it. Politically, with what had transpired in our own region in the last five years, politicians weren’t going to argue with it. Parents weren’t going to argue with it and it was something that we needed then to frame in a way that was going to bring along the education community,” Ms Kirby said.

In her visits to several schools in South Australia and Victoria, Gael Woods was able to see how teachers were incorporating Asian language, perspectives and cultural ideas in everyday teaching.

But many educators did warn of the need to ensure that teachers received the proper support and training for it to have a meaningful effect on students that extended beyond the teaching of ‘food and festivals’.

For example a recent nationwide survey undertaken by the Australian Secondary Principals Association painted a disturbing picture with language teaching in Australian schools probably at an all-time low.

The association’s president, Andrew Blair, said 28 percent of schools were shedding languages as part of their curriculum because they could not guarantee that qualified staff would continue to be available.

“It’s really important that if you are going to embrace Asia that you do it holistically and you provide language programmes as much as cultural immersion programmes,” he told RNZ.

Carillo Gartner, a long serving patron of Asialink which is the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Australian equivalent, said he was alarmed by the dropping number of high school and university students learning Asian languages.
He said federal government funding on language programmes had gone backwards over the past ten years but the new national policy represented a fresh start.

But Meg Gurry, a former lecturer in Asian relations and a member of the Australian Asian Studies Association, said studies of Asia and Asian languages needed a really bold government initiative, such as a national languages institute.

“In five to ten we are going to have a very big crisis because even if there was a new generation of young people that came through said we all want to learn about Asian countries and learn Asian languages, there will be fewer and fewer people to teach them.”

Another concern expressed was how the policy statement could be accommodated within an already crowded curriculum.

But Sydney-based New Zealander Wayne Stevenson said the prosperity of future generations of Australians and New Zealanders lay in the Asian region. Mr Stevenson is the ANZ Bank’s chief financial officer for the Asia Pacific region.

“If they aren’t prepared for that, they don’t understand the cultural norms, they’re not prepared or able to speak some of the languages, they are going to be increasingly irrelevant in that context.”

His words were echoed by Andrew Blair. “If Australian young people are not immersed in Asian culture and language then we are at risk of creating a generation that will not be competitive in a global economy.”

The Insight documentary Studying Asia by Gael Woods was broadcast on National Radio on August 20.

Diwali bursts into light in Auckland, Wellington

Asia:NZ in partnership with Auckland City and the Wellington City Council have put together another wonderful line-up of family entertainment at the forthcoming Diwali Festivals of Lights.

There'll be dancing, Indian food, crafts and spectacular lights and decorations. The festivals have been a popular success in past years; entry is free and is targeted at families.

The Diwali Festival in Auckland will be held at Britomart East with free concert nights on Thursday October 12 and Friday October 13 from 6pm to 9pm. Festival days will be Saturday, October 14 and Sunday, October 15 from 11am to 10pm.

The Wellington events will begin with the Bollywood dance competition on Friday, October 20 at the Michael Fowler Centre, followed by the Diwali Festival on Sunday, October 22 at the Wellington Town Hall, Civic Square and Michael Fowler Centre from 3pm to 10.30pm.

Juggling legend a Diwali highlight

One of India’s most famous jugglers will be one of the star attractions at the Diwali Festival of Lights in Auckland and Wellington.

Abhoy Pada Mitra, a veteran entertainer from West Bengal, gained renown for his dagger-throwing feats in the 1959 film Joy Baba Felunath (The Elephant God) by the legendary Indian film director Satyajit Ray.

Mitra will be visiting New Zealand together with his Abhoy Pada Mitra juggling troupe, thanks to the support of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Indian High Commission.

The 67-year-old performer now runs two juggling academies for children and has carried out over 50 tours in India and overseas. He is proud to say that Mother Teresa gave him the title “Great Entertainer of Children”.

The juggling acts include sword balancing, hammer, plate and ball juggling, ribbon dancing and - best of all - fire juggling.

Festivals to showcase rare Indian art form

One of the highlights at the Diwali Festivals of Light in Auckland and Wellington is an art form that is teetering on the brink of extinction.

The folk art Indian craft of scroll painting is also an ancient form of story telling that dates back for centuries and this year Asia:NZ will be bringing a renown artist, Monimala Chitrakar, to be part of the festivals.

Her surname indicates that Monimala Chitrakar is descended from a long line of traditional artists and storytellers from village communities in a region of West Bengal where most people are named Chitrakar.

While the surname means a maker of pictures, the people who practise this increasingly rare storytelling art are known as ‘Patidars’. The scroll painting they are exponents of consists of narratives based on Hindu mythology and social and topical issues.

Such storytelling and painting is traditionally passed from generation to generation. But the art form has fallen into a steep decline, due mainly to the popularity of cinema, radio and television.

As a result, the ‘Patidar’ community is dwindling as new generations are attracted to new ways of living. While the Indian government tries to keep the art alive, Ms Chitrakar is one of a handful of remaining scroll painting artists.

This is an opportunity for the New Zealand public to enjoy a colourful and ancient art form that is kept alive but only just.

Globetrotting play touches down in Auckland

A play by one of India’s leading contemporary playwrights, performed by an internationally acclaimed theatre company, will be one of the cultural features of this year’s Diwali Festival of Lights in Auckland.

Dance Like a Man by Mahesh Dattani and performed by the Primetime Theatre Company will have two performances only – October 13 and 14 at the SkyCity Theatre.

An International Herald Tribune review described its author as "one of India's best and most serious contemporary playwrights writing in English".

The play is the Primetime Theatre Company's most recognised play, having completed over 250 shows worldwide, including seasons in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Portland, as well as shows in London, Edinburgh, Lahore, Colombo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and throughout India.

Dance Like a Man is a play inhabited by family tensions and dark secrets and is an intimate portrayal of a social scene in South India.

Its author Mahesh Dattani is famous in India as a dancer, an actor, a playwright and a director with a critically acclaimed film – Morning Raga (2005).

This two-act play is directed by Primetime Theatre Company’s artistic director Lillete Dubey of Monsoon Wedding and Zubeida fame, and features a cast of four - Lillete Dubey, Vijay Crishna, Joy Sengupta and Suchitra Pillai.

The New Zealand staging of Dance Like a Man is supported by the Asia:NZ. For more information, email the promoters Entre Nous at dmello@ihug.co.nz.

Dazzling diyas – traditional Indian lamps

Exquisite, tall brass lamps, dazzling, colourful Diwali diyas are just a few of the lamps featured in a one-day exhibition in Wellington.

The exhibition, the first of its kind in New Zealand, will feature more than 40 traditional Indian lamps and diyas collected from the local Indian community.

The exhibition will take place on Sunday, October 22 in the Wellington Town Hall and will be open to the public from 3pm to 9pm on the first floor of the Town Hall. Admission is free.

On display will be a variety of traditional Indian lamps made of different materials like clay, brass, bronze and silver. The significance of these lamps in Indian culture and in particular for the Festival of Lights will be explained.

The exhibition has been organised by Arti Gentejohann, originally an educational television producer from Ahmedabad in western India, who came to New Zealand in 1994.

Website easier, simpler, more useful

Asia:NZ has redesigned its website to make it easier to use. It is now simpler and more logical to navigate around.

For example, the different programme areas are more clearly defined allowing visitors seeking information about business, media, education, culture and research to find it more easily.

Communications director John Saunders says the level and depth of the information that the foundation now delivers has grown significantly over the past decade.

“As such we felt it was the right time to give our website a fresh new look and ensure that the high volume of important information we provide is as accessible and as easy to navigate for our users as possible.”

For example, those seeking information about Asia:NZ’s Diwali Festivals in Auckland and Wellington can now see the event highlighted on the home page.

Mr Saunders says other highlights include a directory for Asian community and business groups and a journalist’s guide to Asian countries.

Korea opportunity for NZ artists

A new residency opportunity for professional New Zealand visual artists is being offered by Asia New Zealand Foundation in partnership with the Korea Foundation.

The six week residency in Seoul will run from November 25 and will be hosted by the National Art Studio of the Korean National Museum of Contemporary Art.

The residency is aimed at an emerging or mid-career artist between the ages of 24 and 49 years working in genres such as painting, drawing, photography, media, screen or installation arts – but not in industrial or ceramic arts.

Asia:NZ will cover the cost of a return airfare, insurance and a daily stipend. The Museum of Contemporary Art will cover the cost of accommodation.

Professional practising artists with a record of achievement in the preferred genres of arts practice are invited to submit a written application to Asia:NZ by no later than 5pm on Friday, September 29, 2006.

Applicants must be New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. For further information, contact Asia:NZ culture director Jennifer King at 04 4708704 or email jking@asianz.org.nz.

Chinese pianist to honour NZ composer

An acclaimed young Chinese pianist will premiere a composition by a New Zealand composer on his tour of New Zealand next month.

Sun Yingdi will give six recitals in six cities from October 7 to 19, featuring music by Liszt, Mozart and Ravel as well as include a piece by Wellington composer Jack Body.

“I am really excited about this collaboration,” Body said. “This is an exciting opportunity to bring a part of contemporary Chinese culture together with the dynamic communities and cultures of Aotearoa.”

Born in Shanghai, Sun who is only 25, rose to international prominence last year when he won the prestigious 7th International Franz Liszt Piano Competition in Utrecht.

The prize included a demanding two-year extensive concert tour including performances throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and South Africa.

“Our communities are connecting with Asia in all sort of wonderful ways,” said Asia:NZ culture director Jennifer King. “Sun Yingdi will be known as one of the 21st century’s greatest pianists, and we are pleased to support his upcoming tour.”

Sun’s tour will begin in Hastings, sister city of Guilin, Guangxi on Saturday, October 7, and continue on to Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Wellington and Blenheim. Master classes will also be held in some centres.

His New Zealand tour is made possible by the Ministry of Culture of China, the Chinese Embassy, Asia NZ Foundation and Capital Theatre Productions. For further information, contact Dawn Sanders on 027 283 6016 or by emailing Action-Sanders@xtra.co.nz.

There once was a place called Burma
By Maxe Fisher

Romantic visions of bygone times when the royal barge would float gracefully down the Ayeyarwaddy River in a tropical fuchsia sunset intermingle with call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, largely under house arrest since 1989.

Similar visions of the glorious temple plains of Bagan mix with images of MiG fighter jets taking off from Mingaladon Airport in Yangon. Or is it romantic visions of monks and nuns strolling across the all teak U Bein footbridge near Amarapura with their vibrant robes flowing in the hot breeze that mix with images of political detainees in Insein Prison?

Having recently participated in the Burma Studies Conference in Singapore this July, the diversity of presentations attested to the construct that defines notions of Burma and the Burmese Diaspora.

Being a region or a country renamed as Myanmar in 1989 and ruled essentially under siege since then by the current military junta, the conference equally highlighted an underlying commonality amongst all participants; the desire for change, the hope for open and transparent knowledge, and the need for a much better context under which to live, work, study and play: basic human rights.

The conference was a lively and significant mix of known and new researchers from around the world with perhaps the largest number of Burmese scholars from both within and aboard.

Entitled Communities of Interpretation, the forum defined and delineated new readings of Burma through its history, health, archaeology, visual arts, environment, literature, the economy, education, and politics, to name a few.

Often in part to challenge colonial writings of the region but more importantly, it was offering contemporary interpretations and analyses of what was, is and might be, was keeping a dialogue of realities and ideas active, and was a context where incorporating these ideas into capacity and future building concepts and discussion was possible.

All of which would be essentially impossible within, due to the extensive network of surveillance, censorship and subsequence fear with which nearly all citizens live.

One could also surmise that a notable part of Burma's archives and documents exist due to its principle coloniser, the British who kept extensive records, and that now there is a very critical need more than ever to build upon a significantly diminishing internal archive of knowledge, with the universities essentially closed, completely out of date textbooks, and the need to work for family survival, a country once the envy of the region for its high standards of education is but currently a mere skeleton of that.

There are less than nominal resources, no authentic or honest initiatives, and no context or framework. New research, contacts, support and the exchange of the diverse range of ideas from this conference contribute significantly to the current and future expertise and knowledge which are essential, critical and integral in the rebuilding of the notion of Burma, now a region loosely held by force, akin to the former Yugoslavia, a region composed of rich and diverse histories of many cultures.

As the need for change intensifies with pressure from the international community and the ASEAN, as the need for change is known by its people and by the people who live outside and in exile, by those in the UN, the diplomatic corps, academia, or the numerous NGO's, that need becomes more obvious and evident.

The determination, articulation and resolution of the change are based upon how one comes to know and to define Burma.

Is it the short-lived dream of independence initiated by Boyoke Aung San in 1947 inclusive of the concept of national reconciliation with the ethnic border regions? Is it the magnificence of past empires? Is it the current and ongoing political stalemate between parties and other independent political entities?

Or is it the promised and endless 'road to democracy'? Is it the refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border? Is it the diminishing availability of medicines and the depleted medical system for the people? Is it the increasing size and power of the military infrastructure? Is it the struggle of the artists for creative freedom? Is it the expense of the average person to buy a basic commodity such as rice?

With ample reasons for despair, there are equally if not more reasons to build on the hope of the future. The Burma Studies conference is critical in its constructive resistance against the status quo and as a forum to update, reinterpret, and revitalise the constructs of a place once known as Burma in the realization and acknowledgement of the diversity of its visions; past, present and future.

Make sure to think of this the next time you are slowly strolling in a mesmeric clockwise fashion around Shwedagon Pagoda as its tall gold stupa glistens and slowly begins to blend into the magnificent pink hue of the evening sky, that visions do come true.

Maxe Fisher is a senior lecturer in industrial design at Victoria University’s School of Design. She has been to Burma five times and has an enduring attachment to and interest in the people, cultures and politics of the Southeast Asian nation.

The next Asia:NZ media newsletter will be available in October. The views expressed by various contributors to the newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asia New Zealand Foundation. If you are interested in contributing to the newsletter, please contact Asia:NZ’s media adviser Charles Mabbett at cmabbett@asianz.org.nz

Toitu he kianga; whatungarongaro he tangata - people are transient things but the land endures.



Asia New Zealand Foundation is grateful to its key sponsors - Fonterra, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade - for their commitment to the Foundation's activities.


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