Arriving from Fiji, newlywed Halima Stewart headed straight to Tapu Te Ranga Marae where she raised three kids with husband Bruce. She talks with her two youngest about navigating different cultures.
Halima Stewart was 22 when she came to Aotearoa to be with her new husband Bruce, who was in his 50s when they met. After growing up in Fiji, and speaking only Hindi, moving countries and heading straight to Tapu Te Ranga Marae to live was a huge culture shock for Halima.
“When I was first feeling homesick on the marae, Bruce tried his best to take me everywhere he could so that I could speak my own language. Two years, I couldn’t speak my own language around here, and I couldn’t speak English very well at that time. I never knew what ‘homesick’ meant at that time.”
Bruce Stewart was an influential figure in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and when he passed away in 2017, his death left a hole in the lives of many people around him. He and Halima had three kids: Parehuia, Hirini, and Kirihika. Halima’s two youngest kids, Hirini and Kirihika, join her in the discussion on the podcast.
“Growing up, not being Indian enough in an Indian household and not being Māori enough in a Māori household. You’re just in the stereotypes constantly,” poses Kirihika.
As Kirihika explains, trying to stay true to both sides of her identity was difficult. Halima wanted her children to grow up with a strong sense of their identity as Indians, and with knowledge of Islam, as she did. Bruce wanted their children to grow up with tikanga Māori, which was largely missing from his own childhood and upbringing.
Tapu Te Ranga Marae was a beacon for the community in Island Bay, but unfortunately a fire broke out in 2019, a tragedy which is covered extensively in Episode One of RNZ podcast He Kākano Ahau. Losing both Bruce and Tapu Te Ranga was devastating for Halima. Although Halima and Bruce had been separated for many years, she was his primary caregiver in his later years, and was with him when he passed.
This episode explores loss, isolation in a new country, biculturalism, and cross-cultural relationships that bypass colonialism and connect straight into te ao Māori.
Series Classification: G (General Audiences)
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.