8 Apr 2021

Episode 5: Side by Side - Conversations With My Immigrant Parents S2

From Conversations With My Immigrant Parents, 6:00 am on 8 April 2021

Sisters Avi and Eva sit down with their daughters and talk about white men who travel to Indonesia, the fetishisation of Asian women, and leading parallel lives in Whangārei.

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(L-R) Eva Corne and sister Avi Nurhidayati Damerell

(L-R) Eva Corne and sister Avi Nurhidayati Damerell Photo: Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu

Sisters Avi and Eva did not plan to both end up living and raising their whānau in Whangārei. Growing up in Indonesia, as two of five siblings, they were similar in age and had a close relationship.

Eva, the eldest of the two sisters, started working at a company owned by her later husband, Colin. When Colin’s friend Tim travelled to Indonesia, her sister Avi was picked to be a guide for him with Colin secretly hoping they might take a liking to each other.

Eva and her daughter Cindy in Avi outside her home in Tutukākā

Eva and her daughter Cindy in Avi outside her home in Tutukākā Photo: Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu

In the end, Avi and Tim immigrated to Aotearoa in 1995, with Eva and Colin following in 2003. Both sisters have two children; Avi has daughters Cinta and Aimee, and Eva has kids Cindy and Tom. Cinta and Cindy join their mothers in this conversation.

Being the daughters of Indonesian women who married Pākehā men is a large part of this episode.

Avi talks about observing the ways that white men behave in Indonesia, “In Indonesia, when you are an expatriate; some of them like to play with women.”

(L-R) Tom, his Mum Eva, and his cousin Cinta in their friend's beauty salon in Whangārei

(L-R) Tom, his Mum Eva, and his cousin Cinta in their friend's beauty salon in Whangārei Photo: Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu

Her daughter Cinta explains feeling hyper-visible and conscious about the way her father is treated in Indonesia also, “Whenever we go over, walking on the street with Dad, everyone’s kinda coming here and crowding around Dad because they’re like, ‘Ooh, rich white man’.”

Since moving to Aotearoa, Avi and Eva have done a lot to create and involve themselves in a community of immigrants, and of Indonesian immigrants specifically.

Avi spends a lot of time volunteering with WINGs - the Women’s International Newcomers Group in Whangārei. Both sisters have also made a concentrated effort to bring Indonesians across the North Island together to form a community.

(L-R) Avi and her daughter Cinta, Cindy and her Mum Eva

(L-R) Avi and her daughter Cinta, Cindy and her Mum Eva Photo: Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu

Cindy and Cinta live and work in Auckland, and return to their family homes in Whangārei and Tutukākā when they can. They talk about the close relationship their mothers share, and Eva confesses how important it is to have her sister so close.

“I feel really blessed to have Avi here. If she weren’t here maybe I would have a best friend or something, but it will be different how we talk, how we let go of our feelings, everything different.”

(L-R) Tom, Eva, Avi, Cinta and Cindy sit in the living room of Avi's house in Avi outside her home in Tutukākā

(L-R) Tom, Eva, Avi, Cinta and Cindy sit in the living room of Avi's house in Avi outside her home in Tutukākā Photo: Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu

This episode is centered around themes of closeness between sisters/whānau, the fetishisation of Asian women by white men, and struggles around creating community in a new and vastly different place.

Series Classification: G (General Programmes)

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(L-R) Podcast hosts Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu.

(L-R) Podcast hosts Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu. Photo: Saraid de Silva / Julie Zhu

Conversations With My Immigrant Parents is a podcast and video series hosted, produced, and directed by Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu.

Saraid de Silva is a Sri Lankan/Pākehā actor and writer.  Her work deals with contemporary feminism and the realities of being a first generation South Asian New Zealander.

Born in China, Julie Zhu is a filmmaker, photographer, and storyteller focused on championing the stories and voices of marginalised identities.

| Twitter: @saraiddesilva@juliezhuu | Instagram: @convoswithmy | Facebook: whereareyoufromreally |

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