Politics

Reactions From New Zealand: 'Blatant Racism is Very Much Alive Here'

We spoke to Africans in New Zealand about their reactions to the Christchurch attack.

Just over a week ago, Samantha Kutesera was scrolling through her Facebook feed like many of us do on a daily basis. She was catching up on news and liking a few posts here and there —nothing out of the ordinary—when she came across the news that there had been a mass shooting in two Christchurch mosques. Kutesera, who relocated to New Zealand from South Africa when she was just 7-years-old and has lived there for 16 years, was shocked and angered but not surprised. "This is what happens when we give all those people who discriminate against others and troll on the internet, without consequences, a gun," she says.


On March 15th, Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, who was armed with a semi-automatic rifle, shot and killed 49 Muslims during their prayer session. Among the deceased were women, men, children and even a toddler as young as 3-years-old. Even worse, Tarrant live-streamed his terrorist attack for all to see.

While the Christchurch shooting was horrific and unimaginable, discriminatory and racist attitudes are not uncommon in New Zealand. According to Kutesera, "Casual racism, blatant racism and intolerant attitudes are very much alive here. Some experience this more than others, but everyone has a story. A story that is usually ignored."

Most people are afraid of what they really don't know and understand says Kutesera. Ordinary Muslims especially, have been painted with the same brush used on jihadists, terrorists and extreme Islamists. "With all that has been going on in the world people in most countries have been associating the actions of terrorists and extremists with all Muslims. New Zealand included. Especially those who hold white supremacist and racist views," she adds.

African Communities Forum Incorporated (ACOFI), which is a community of Africans who are part of the broader diaspora, issued a statement where they expressed their grief and condemned the tragic loss of life, especially in a place of worship. They also commented on how encouraging it was to see the overwhelming response to the terrorist attack as well as support from the global community. In a message to their fellow Africans in New Zealand they added, "We know this is a tough time. ACOFI is here for you. If you are concerned about whānau (family) and friends in Christchurch or just feel shaken, please contact us. We will get you help."

In the wake of the attack, ACOFI posted updates on their social media platforms of Africans who had been confirmed dead and of those they were waiting for information on. Three adult Somalis and a child as well as two Ethiopians were killed in the attack. A Somali man who was travelling to support his community after the attack, died in a car accident. The organization subsequently held a vigil for all the victims involved and their families.


Members of the public lay flowers down for victims.Via Wikimedia Commons

While many have been quick to highlight the act of terrorism as "not New Zealand," members of ACOFI disagree. According to them, Tarrant's callous actions are the result of extremist far-right views being allowed to be propagated with reckless, and now lethal, abandon. Kutesera believes that Tarrant was simply a manifestation of what happens when the voices of the people who are being discriminated against are repeatedly not being heard or taken seriously. She adds, "This white-supremacist terror attack was a manifestation of allowing this. Of not listening to people who are being discriminated against and taking them serious or holding them at the same level of respect and importance as everyone else."

In the run-up to the mass shooting, Tarrant was able to express blatant hatred on social media platforms like Twitter, posting several links to his hate-filled manifesto and writing about his reverence for white nationalist terrorists like Anders Breivik. Tarrant's narrative of white victimhood sees "white survival" hinging on the targeting of Brown and Black immigrants. As if that weren't enough Tarrant even likens himself to the anti-Apartheid struggle veteran, Nelson Mandela, who fought for the liberation of Black South Africans.

Shortly after the terrorist attack, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, announced that the country's gun laws would be changing. Following her announcement, assault rifles and military-style automatic firearms were banned entirely. Echoing the belief of many New Zealanders since the attacks, Kutesera believes that the only use for semi-automatic weapons is to kill people. "There is no need for semi-automatic weapons in this country," she says. "Only the military or police should have access to these weapons."

When asked about what needs to drastically change in New Zealand from preventing anyone else from being victimized, Kutesera says the answer, or at least part of it, lies in the world listening to the stories of intolerance and discrimination of so many as well as speaking out against the perpetrators. "The biggest lesson and way to move forward is hold people to account of the words and actions," she says. "Letting these things slide has given birth to these terrorists."

Popular
Photo by Martijn Gijsbertsen via Kakwenza Rukirabashaija

Interview: Kakwenza Rukirabashaija On Being The Hell That The Ugandan Government Created For Themselves

We spoke with the Ugandan author, activist, and lawyer about his tumultuous relationship with a governing body that has no interest in maintaining law and order.

In his 33 years on Earth, Ugandan novelist, lawyer, and activist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has not known a safe and fair homeland. Born two years after current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni began his reign of terror in 1986, Rukirabashaija has spent most of his professional career trying to get people to take a real look at the dictator and his actions. The author’s first stab at an expose came in 2020, with the release of The Greedy Barbarian, a fictional recount of the highly-corrupt ruling National Resistance Party and the impossibly illegal things they got away with. The party then, under the instructions of Museveni, ordered the arrest of Rukirabashaija – and the toxic, biased tango began.

Keep reading...Show less
News
Photo Credit: Omar Marques/Getty Images

We Spoke With African Students Stranded In Ukraine, These Are Their Stories

As Russia and Ukraine go into conflict with each other, thousands of African students have become displaced as their home embassies struggle to get them all out and to safety.

Eastern Europe is at war and the Russia and Ukraine conflict has taken center-stage in world affairs, progressing from benign, out-of-view diplomacy to open-field military attacks. Earlier this week, the world watched in shock and horror as Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an attack on the country of Ukraine. Russia invading Ukraine can be explained from many positions. And while an oversimplification of the issue can arise, it’s not inaccurate to point that Russia is going through these lengths to keep Ukraine out of NATO’s expansion agenda. Thousands of Ukrainian residents are now forced to flee their homes and leave their lives behind. On top of the stress of having to grab your life and go, is the added anxiety of being a foreigner in a country, seeking refugee amongst thousands. With little-to-no concrete communication or solutions from their respective embassies, thousands of African students are stranded in a war-torn Ukraine.

Keep reading...Show less
Featured
Photo Credit: Damilare Kuku

Damilare Kuku on How Real Life Inspired Her Hit Novel ‘Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad’

OkayAfrica spoke to author Damilare Kuku about her salient breakout novel ‘Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad.’

Damilare Kuku is new to Nigeria’s literary scene. But her short story collection, Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad, came with a buzz. Released in October 2021, the book is a collection of twelve salient tales of young Nigerians in Lagos. Capturing the complexion of the city, it grapples with themes like love, sex, deceit, infidelity, companionship, and heartbreak.

The characters in Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad are women. However, they are not just any kind of women. They are people with whom Kuku shares certain connections with.

Some of these women are friends, close acquaintances, and relatives. "One of the aims of my work as a creative artist is bringing human beings closer, especially women," Kuku told OkayAfrica. "Because women need to know that whatever they are going through, they are not alone. There are other people with the same thing happening to them."

Kuku, who loved reading books as a child, grew up between Lagos and Ile-Ife. Before her debut novel became a hit, Damilare played roles in movies. She’s made appearances in Africa Magic's television series Unbroken and Nollywood blockbusters like The Set-Up (2019), Chief Daddy (2018), and Love is War (2019). As her writing career enjoys attention and success, she landed her most important Nollywood role yet — in the Biodun Stephen-directed drama The Wildflower, released in May.

OkayAfrica caught up with Kuku on Zoom to talk about this anthology work, its inspiration, and her most important role in Nollywood yet.

Damilare Kuku book

How did you come up with the title?

The title of the novel came to me after a prayer session. I'm an unapologetic child of God, which means I rely heavily on God. I was actually in between projects and remembered I was in my one-room apartment in Yaba, Lagos — a very cute little place. I liked it, and I was so proud of the space.

Whenever I am not working, I pray. Somehow, somewhere, I was praying, inspiration came and was like, "how about you write a novel titled Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad?" It wasn't even the inspiration for the stories; it was only the title. So immediately, I sent the title to a very well-known Nollywood actor's assistant. I never got a response, which discouraged me a bit, but I thought maybe it wasn't the right time, so I let it go. This was in 2019. A year later, I submitted a book to my publisher. This was the publisher who later published Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad, and they were like we see potential, and we'd love you to come in for a meeting. So I went in for a meeting and they wanted to sign me on the spot.

Your book deals with themes like deceit, companionship, infidelity, social class, friendship, and heartbreak. Was there any of these themes you wanted readers to pay more attention to?

All stories in the novel are as personal as they can be. I don't have a story in the book, but each story was carefully written, which is interesting because I had all of these things written out, hoping anybody reading the book would get the message. When the message was clear, it was pretty comforting. Every particular story was of clear intention. The same thing with any of my work has always been clear. I'm always delighted when people see my message's clarity. Each story is a love letter to some woman I know.

In the story “Beard Gang” from Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad, you explored how Gay men use marriage to straight women to conceal and hide their sexual orientation. Do you think Nearly All The Men in Lagos helped in any way to pinpoint how this is problematic?

Firstly LGBTQ+ community is very precious, and I'm cautious with what I say. I believe my work mirrors what is going on in the society. Take from it what you will. I tell most people I'm not here to educate you, and I'm more of a timekeeper. That's what I am as a writer. I'm saying this is what is happening. As Damilare, I believe people should be who they want to be. People should learn to accept people for who they are. That's my phenomenon; that is my theory about life. When a person shows you who they are, accept them, but on the other hand, I'm not doing that in this book. I'm simply saying that this is where our society is. Read it and then take from it what you will.

Because it would be foolhardy of me to say this is wrong or right. I'm not here to teach anybody, I'm just here to mirror the society and say how it is. I've had many reporters ask me what my view on queer people is. I don't have an opinion, and that's not because I'm trying to play it safe, but this is what society is.

Damilare Kuku green shirt

"I'm very intentional with my work, and I feel like, as a woman, I can only share stories about what it feels like to be a woman," Damilare Kuku said.

Photo Credit: Damilare Kuku

Let’s talk about the theme of sex. Why was it so essential to the stories being told in your novel?

For me, it was the characters telling their stories, and I can remember older people who had read the book who called me and said, "Is this what is happening now?" and I said yes. I told them it was different from their time when women were very conservative about their sexual life and sexuality. Nowadays, if a woman consents to sex, she's doing it of her own free will. So is that necessarily a good or a bad thing? Then again, it is not my place because if I pass judgment as a writer, I'm not doing my job telling the story. It is left to the readers to make with it what they will. I remember I did an interview a while ago and the interviewer and critic called NALMILAM not too far from pornography, and I laughed. Similarly, the book is dedicated to my mom Oluremi Abake. She started reading the book, but she also says the sex talk is a bit too much for her. But I feel like it's a normal phenomenon; young people living in Lagos are having sex, so why sugar coat it?

Was there any story in Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad that was tedious or mentally draining to write?

The only thing that was quite tedious was emotions. So when my friends — the inspirations behind the stories — went through what they went through, I related as a listener. To write about their experiences, you have to become them. So I found myself being them. Sometimes I would even cry. In the story "Ode-plus complex," the main character (Jide) was a family member's experience. I became the character to understand what they went through, which helped me as an actor. It was very therapeutic.

Let's talk about your latest role in The Wildflower. Share with me what it was like to play the role

As I said, I'm very intentional with my work, and I feel like, as a woman, I can only share stories about what it feels like to be a woman, either through what friends have been through or what I know someone else has gone through. I can tell what other women go through because I am one myself, so when I got the role in The Wildflower, after several auditions, I was very excited. I wanted to tell the story of women and what they go through, abuse in the workplace and many girls go through that. They are being marginalized. Women go through a lot, and most times, some people who do these things to us don't think they've abused the woman.

In The Wildflower, my character was abused by her boss, and there was a scene after the abuse where he said to her, "If only you've been a little bit more cooperative..." and I believe most men think like this. They think, "I didn't rape you — we had sex." But no, it's rape. I told you "no." You didn't listen and went ahead to do what you wanted. When someone says "no," no should mean no. I have often heard some ridiculous views like, "when an African woman says no, she means maybe."

We are here in a society where men don't respect boundaries. They don't respect personal space, and they think it's okay to touch a girl because she's wearing a short skirt. I read a review about The Wildflower from a popular site, and the reviewer said, "absolutely not recommended because abuse has been talked about," and I actually wish I could talk to the person and say, "just because abuse has been talked about many times, doesn't mean it shouldn't be explored."






Music
(YouTube)

The 4 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Mr Eazi x MIchael Brun, Gyakie, Flvme, and Asari Music.

Every week, we highlight the top releases through our best music of the week column. Here's our round-up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks.

If you like these music lists, you can also check out our Best Songs of the Month columns following Nigerian, Ghanaian, East African and South African music.

Keep reading...Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

'Proud and Unafraid' Details the Trials & Tribulations of Being Queer in Nigeria

We spoke with N’ihu Media founder Bayo Lambo about his documentary ‘Proud and Unafraid' and the power of using storytelling to uplift communities.

Tim Lyre Wants You to Worry Less

The talented afro-fusionist keeps the flag flying high for Nigerian alternative music with his debut album, Worry <.

The Story of Zamrock: Zambia's 1970s Fuzz Rock Sound

Get to know the musical and political history behind Zambia's much-talked about 1970s fuzz rock scene and genre.

Dozens of African Migrants Killed At Morocco/Spain Border

Thousands of Spaniards have taken to the streets to protest the brutal treatment of those attempting to cross into North African city Melilla this week.

popular.

This Photographer is Capturing the Femininity of Congo’s La Sape Movement

Once a male-centric domain, women in Congo are disturbing the gender boundaries of La Sape, and photojournalist Victoire Douniama wants them recognized.