Everyone invited to Chinese Language Week celebrations

Andy Brew - Stuff

22 Sep 2022

Marlborough’s Chinese community has invited all the region’s diverse cultures to join them on Sunday for a special event to celebrate New Zealand Chinese Language Week.

A Kiwi-driven initiative that was launched in 2014, New Zealand Chinese Language Week (NZCLW) was established to help increase people’s learning and understanding of the Chinese language and culture in Aotearoa.

It is thought to be the only one of its kind set up in a Western country.

Leading the celebrations in Blenheim will be members of the New Zealand Chinese Association Marlborough, a community group that was set up in 2020 to help people stay connected to their roots.

President Xuemei (Snow Flower) Zhang said it was decided to set up a Marlborough branch of the association as members of the Chinese community were beginning to feel isolated, and children were struggling with their cultural identity.

“The Chinese population in Marlborough is growing, and with everybody being so busy, the chances for us to have social lives were limited.

“The other reason would be for the children growing up. A lot of them were born in New Zealand, and a lot of them started to forget about their Chinese culture, so now we have an environment for them to socialise and learn the language.

“And when they get to a certain age, what we’ve found is they start to question their identity.

“They will say, ‘I’m a Kiwi, but people keep asking ‘where do you come from?’ So am I a Kiwi? Or do I have other cultural associations?”

Zhang said some children could suffer depression as a result, particularly if they were bullied at school.

“We embrace New Zealand, we love the country, but culture is so important. To know where you come from, to know who you are – you’re the product of your own culture, and you grow into a very confident person.”

Teacher and volunteer Mandy Li said while it was important to keep hold of one’s culture, it was as just as important to be accepting of others and that interaction between cultures was a benefit to all.

“We have around 300 Chinese families here in Blenhiem. Considering it’s a small town, it’s quite significant.

“Different cultures only make us richer, not poorer, so we invite all the cultures in coming to our event.

“We have a Māori opening, and we’ll have all the different cultures joins us, so it will be very mixed. We’re trying to include everyone in the community. There’s more connecting us than there are differences,” Li said.

The Blenheim event will be held at the Clubs of Marlborough on Sunday September 25 when members of the Chinese community will showcase traditional dances and performances and hold workshops teaching ancient arts such as Chinese calligraphy and Tea Art.