Here to Stay

7:40pm Saturday, December 25 on TV One

The energetic local series Here To Stay is back exploring the surprising ways New Zealand’s heritage has shaped the Kiwi character.

This week, Comedian Michele A’Court throws a spotlight on the history of the French, and the race to colonise the Pacific that might have given the country a different flag.

A’Court travels from the far North, to Banks Peninsula and up the Whanganui river to Jerusalem to find the traces of the French. Along the way she is touched by the ghost of a fiesty nun, gets very close to kissing a seal and meets a Maori family descended from a French whaler.

During the filming process A’Court says, “I developed a new appreciation of the meaning of whakapapa.” She explains, coming from a family, “where the specifics of my French family history are unknown. The A’Courts left France so long ago, we don’t even know when – maybe they were Protestant refugees in the 17th century, maybe they were Norman Conquerors in the 11th century.”

“I’ve always thought that most of us in New Zealand are such a melting pot of cultures that you can’t pin down just one to have descended from,” says A’Court. She continues, “I asserted in my ‘Heritage 101’ show in 2005 that where our ancestors came from mattered less than the fact that they left that place, and had the courage to turn up in a new world, where they could reinvent themselves and live a new and better life.” However, the comedian’s views changed during her journey through the show as she states, “now I have a sense that there are some things about me that might have a lot to do with some very old French blood.”

A’Court concludes: “I developed a sense that I didn’t just invent myself on the day I was born. That my lifelong, inexplicable attraction and passion for French food and wine and cultural history, for the thinkers and drinkers and revolutionaries, for the music and art and style -the whole ‘je ne sais quois’ – might actually be about whakapapa.”

Sunday 18 January, 7.30pm

They say that the English are too polite to be honest, but the Dutch are too honest to be polite. Bugman Ruud Kleinpaste proves the point. If the very name of the country comes from Holland, another ‘Zeeland’, what else does Kiwi culture owe to the Dutch?

Ruud checks out an all-Dutch retirement home and decides it’s probably not for him; tries his hand at rowing with Olympic medallist Eric Verdonk; and gets the inside running on competitive spirit from Dick Quax and Yvonne Willering.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris De Bries helps plant a few trees, and Ruud has himself turned into a kea. From coffee pioneers to Lockwood homes, liquor licences and late arrivals, Ruud clomps through the landscape of Dutch and Indonesian influence in his Kiwi clogs – and finds that the Dutch sense of humour is not exactly a strong point.

Sunday 11 January, 7.30pm on TV One

Actor Madeleine Sami finds many surprising things about the Indian influence in New Zealand, taking on the challenge of reconciling her Irish Catholic and Fijian Indian heritage on Here To Stay tonight at 7.30pm on TV ONE.

Describing herself as a ‘curried potato’, Sami casts aside the green cloth of her Irish-Pakeha side, and goes in search of her Indian roots. Unexpectedly, she discovers a strong-hold of Indian culture in the Waikato, alongside a hidden history of apartheid-style racism; learns a little Hindi; and attends an enormous wedding.

Before taking part in Here To Stay, Sami had worn a sari once. She says as a child she didn’t think about being Indian: “My identity growing up was just being a plain old Kiwi kid. I didn’t feel different from the other kids, nor was I treated any differently.

“My Fijian-Indian – or Indo-Fijian – family came over in the 1970s, when the immigration laws relaxed to allow much-needed ‘non-white’ professionals in. I always thought most Indian-New Zealanders were recent immigrants too, but I was wrong.

“I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that because I was a history nut at school. Still am, but I had no idea about the early Indian immigrants. They came to New Zealand to make money to send back home; money that could only be made from doing the really crappy jobs like swamp draining, bush cutting, collecting bottles – stuff like that.

“They were hard working and just put their heads down. They took the mistreatment without complaint. Admirable I guess, but also really sad,” she says.

As an actor, Sami isn’t used to being herself in front of the camera, so presenting Here To Stay was slightly daunting. “I found being me, being myself, in front of the camera quite hard. But I really wanted to learn about the experiences of other Indians in New Zealand, and learn more about what I thought too.”

Sami says Here To Stay gave her a number of insights to her Indian side: “I learned my first words of Hindi. Yes, it was only “Hello, my name is Madeleine” but it’s a start! I wore a sari for the second time in my life – I felt so regal and elegant. I was one of about a thousand guests at an Indian wedding. I did yoga at a primary school. I helped cook a goat curry.

“I’ve still got a lot to learn about being Indian. Being Fijian Indian, I haven’t been to India. But I will, hopefully this year even. While I’m there I’ll make a point of learning Hindi and how to cook a cracker curry. I’ll master Indian classical dance and the art of tying a sari.”

Here To Stay tonight also features a cast of Patels (Dipak, Ramesh and Jeetan); a Singh or several; Jacob Rajan and comedians Those Indian Guys; plus a marriage proposal. Sami gets an insight into her father’s family – and wonders whether she should be called Fijian-Indian or Indo-Fijian.

 

Sunday 4 January, 7.30pm on TV One

Being asked where he comes from has never been a tricky question to answer for self-described ‘half-wog’ Paolo Rotondo. It just depends on the language. “‘Da dove sei?’ or ‘Where are you from?’ If I’m asked in English, easy; New Zealand. If Italian, that’s easy too; Napoli,” says Rotondo, the first Kiwi to share his ancestors’ contribution to New Zealand, in a new series of Here To Stay (tonight at 7.30pm on TV ONE).

From different countries around the world, six more Kiwis uncover the mix of values, personalities and tempers their own ancestors brought to this country on Here To Stay. Actor Madeleine Sami finds many surprising things about the Indian influence; the infamous Bugman, Ruud Kleinpaste, digs deeply into tales of Dutch pragmatism; comedian Michele A’Court takes a spotlight to the French; actor, singer, presenter Stephanie Tauevihi – despite her Niuean name and looks – is half-Danish; Naked Samoan (also Niuean) Shimpal Lelisi traces the influence of Pacific Islanders; and episode one sees Paulo Rotondo take his own Italian zeal to the complex tales of Italian fishermen, soldiers and farmers. Coming to New Zealand as an 11-year-old, with his Kiwi mother and Neapolitan father, made his ‘otherness’ make sense, says Rotondo. “Until then Napoli was the only home I knew and loved, but because I had a New Zealand mother I was always different – ‘other’.”

But in New Zealand in the early 80s he still stood out as different: “I was ‘other’ too. Although I looked like the other kids, I sounded so different; my English was pretty poncy and I had none of the lingo, the idioms.

“My attitude to food was also different, as was the food I ate. As soon as I opened my lunchbox, the difference between me and the other kids was clear. At first the other kids were suspicious of what I had for lunch. That was until they tasted it. Then it was trading gold.”

Since arriving in New Zealand, Rotondo may have lost his accent and learned to like weetbix, but he says he has always kept his love of Neapolitan food. He says Here to Stay gave him the opportunity to meet the Italians of New Zealand: the fishermen; the tomato growers; the artists; the football fanatics; the cooks; and more.

After all his years in New Zealand, Rotondo says in a lot of ways he is still a stereotypical Italian bloke. “I love food, I’m hot-headed, I’m passionate and intense. Yes, I love my mama and yes, I ride a Vespa. But I don’t love everything about Italian culture; there’s a conservatism there, and I react to the strict demand to live only like that culture decrees. I adore my family, but sometimes my Italian-ness seems to conflict with my Kiwi drive to be an individual.”

At the end of the day, Rotondo says he got the best of both worlds; “I’ve got a love of the arts and the ability to express it; the fierce love of my family and the freedom to be an individual; a proud immigrant history, but the knowledge that New Zealand is my turangawaewae – my “da dove sei.”

 

Saturday 13 December, 7pm

In Here To Stay, six well known Kiwis explore the idealism, sense of humour and ‘can do’ attitude their own pioneering people brought to New Zealand shores. What role has the culture played in shaping the country? Was there a laugh, a song or a national obsession to be had from the Germans, Chinese, English, Scottish, Dalmatians or the Irish?

Travelling the country in search of their own ethnic roots, comedian Ewen Gilmour, entertainer Jackie Clark, rugby league legend Frano Botica, reporter/director Bernadine Lim, and actors Michael Hurst and Theresa Healey, take a revealing and entertaining look at what it means to be a Kiwi.

In this week’s episode, actor/director Michael Hurst journeys into the core of English traditions in New Zealand, the upper-class sports and letters, and the working-class passion for meat and three vege, unions and Minis.

Saturday 6 December, 7pm

In Here To Stay, six well-known Kiwis explore the idealism, sense of humour and ‘can do’ attitude their own pioneering people brought to New Zealand shores. What role has the culture played in shaping the country? Was there a laugh, a song or a national obsession to be had from the Germans, Chinese, English, Scottish, Dalmatians or the Irish?

Travelling the country in search of their own ethnic roots, comedian Ewen Gilmour, entertainer Jackie Clark, rugby league legend Frano Botica, reporter/director Bernadine Lim, and actors Michael Hurst and Theresa Healey, take a revealing and entertaining look at what it means to be a Kiwi.

In the first episode, Ewen Gilmour – who is a direct descendent from the first boat of Bohemians that arrived in Puhoi in 1863 – explores heritage of German New Zealanders.

Gilmour sets out to discover if the German love of slapstick humour, bread and classical music lent anything to the revered ‘She’ll be right, mate’ attitude.

He investigates his own ancestry along with the German legacy of war heroes, rock stars and great Kiwi traditions. He says, “the story of the German Kiwis is a twisted tale of mad Counts, hard-working craftsmen, far-out hippies, terrible wars, pioneers, spies, suspicions and famous public toilets.”

The experience was a lot of fun: “It was an eye-opening journey with some extremely interesting discoveries. There are some really weird things that went on, like a German man who was incarcerated here while his four sons were off fighting a war for New Zealand. Some of our war heroes were of German decent.”

Adding how “unbelievably lucky” he was that Germans are beer makers, Gilmour injects his sense of humour in to the unscripted series.

Enlisting fellow Krauts along the way, including rugby player Josh Kronfeld, writer Nicky Hager and chef Annabel Langbein, Gilmour says he hopes the series shows what a mixed culture and diverse lot New Zealanders are: “We all came here from somewhere!”

I just bought the DVD of Here to Stay. A great gift for the parentals. They’re into NZ history and how we all ended up here. And because we’re from English stock, they’re particularly into the English episode. In fact I might donate one to the kids’ school. Nice idea.

Tonight brings to a close the six-part Gibson Group documentary series Here to Stay with former All Black Frano Botica tracing by the roots of fellow Dalmatian settlers to New Zealand.

Have you been following the series? What are your reflections on the show and will you watch the second season?

Here To Stay Monday 7 May, 7.30pm

Former All Black and league international sports star Frano Botica takes a journey into the heart of Yugoslav/Croatian roots in New Zealand in the series final of ‘Here To Stay’ (tonight at 7.30pm on TV ONE).

From architects to rock stars, wine pioneers and politicians, he delves deeply into the close relationship between Croatians/Dalmatians and Maori in the far North, and discovers that his European ancestors truly followed their own roots into stonemasonry, construction, fishing and wine.
Botica says filming ‘Here To Stay’ was an enlightening experience: “It opened my eyes up to some of the hardships the gumdiggers went through, especially since we filmed it during the winter. I realised how rugged the country was, and how cold and miserable it must have been for them.”

Developing a deeper respect for what their ancestors experienced in coming to settle in New Zealand is a common theme for all of the ‘Here To Stay’ presenters.

“They were strong and not afraid of hard work,” Botica says, adding that for his ancestors it wasn’t probably as tough as where they had come from: “They had experienced a lot of poverty and hardship overseas. So what we deemed as hard work wasn’t that rough for them, because of where they came from.”

He says the Dalmatia his “Dida” left behind is a stunning hot tourist destination these days, so you have to wonder what drove the Croatians and Dalmatians from their beautiful Mediterranean home and drew them halfway around the world to New Zealand. “They wanted nothing more than to build a better life for their children.”

One of the highlights for Botica was spending time with the Nobilo family and watching the interaction. “It was great going to the Nobilos’ vineyard. The old Nobilos were very funny with each other, making jokes etc. It reminded me of when I went to Croatia and met some of my own family. It was great to see how happy they are.”

Tonight’s ‘Here To Stay’ also sees Botica team-up with Pluto lead singer Milan Borich and entertainer Tina Cross, who add their own Dalmatian vignettes.

Here To Stay
Monday 23 April, 7.30pm

‘Here To Stay’ presenter Bernadine Lim says at times while filming the interviews she had felt like they should be private conversations, without a camera crew intruding, even thought they were clearly there to share a story.

“Meeting and interviewing people in the documentary was entertaining and enriching but it was uncomfortable at times to talk about personal identity issues and experiences of racism on camera, from both my own perspective and asking others about how deeply it affected them.”
Television director Lim presents tonight’s episode of ‘Here To Stay’ (at 7.30pm on TV ONE). Lim has her own experience of the Sino-Kiwi effect on New Zealand’s perceptions of the world, and asks where Asian values fit in a country that prizes rugby above most other things.

While she found the experience both great fun and harrowing, Lim says she felt the weight of representing the Chinese experience. “There have been several waves of Chinese immigration, each with their own stories and reactions to making New Zealand a home.

“‘Here To Stay’ gives New Zealanders a chance to hear outside of news sound-bytes and early morning programming, it gives more detail about the history and heartache of the Chinese community. I was surprised by some of the detail I learnt, even though I was already aware of most of the stories. Like the fact that Richard Seddon had compared Chinese people to monkeys, and learning that the Englishman who committed the Haining St shooting had been in the country for far fewer years than the Chinese man he shot,” she says.

Presenting ‘Here To Stay’ was a new experience for Lim, who says it was enjoyable but tricky at times, as she is used to being on the other side of the camera. “It was fantastic to hear the differences in stories and reactions to living in New Zealand – from Roseanne and Tze Ming’s creative expression of their experiences, to academic analysis, to the thoughts of everyday Chinese families. It’s too easy to lump a minority’s opinion into a flat one-dimensional description.”

Lim says while her parents always told her lots of stories about arriving from tropical Malaysia and finding their way to Whakatane in the middle of winter, she learnt new stories while filming. “I had never heard how my father made two genius discoveries in his first week in New Zealand – long johns and electric blankets. He had no idea what they were initially, but grew to love and depend on both of them.”

Tonight’s ‘Here To Stay’ sees Lim check out whether it really is cool to be Chinese-Kiwi these days and meet with ‘Bro’Town’ cartoonist Ant Sang, rap stars, fashion designers and artists to ponder how far New Zealand has come since poll tax.