3 Apr 2023

Conversations with My Immigrant Parents | Season 3 | Episode 1: Little Pomegranate Tree

From Conversations with My Immigrant Parents, 6:00 am on 3 April 2023

Adel escaped religious persecution in Iran as a teenager. He talks with his wife Maxine and daughter Carmel about language, whakapapa, plane rides, and the privilege of putting art first.

This episode contains offensive language, themes of escape, sacrifice, loss of language, and navigating multiple identities.

Adel, his wife Maxine, and their eldest, Carmel, lead the first episode of this final series of Conversations with My Immigrant Parents. Maxine is Samoan, Chinese, and Māori; Adel is Iranian, and came to Aotearoa with his brother when he was 16, after spending a year and a half in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Maxine and Adel live in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa with Carmel, who is 20, and their youngest, Haami, who was 16 at the time of recording.

Haami and Carmel Chan-Salmanzadeh outside their home in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa

Haami and Carmel Chan-Salmanzadeh outside their home in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa Photo: Saraid de Silva & Julie Zhu

In the conversation, Carmel talks about preparing to live away from her parents for the first time, leaving Tūranganui-a-Kiwa to head back to Tāmaki Makaurau, where her family lived for many years, to study fine arts and language at the University of Auckland.

I feel I’ve only really discovered the art world in the past year because I’ve started to work with people and spend time with people who are involved with that, but my idea of being an artist was always you,” Carmel tells her dad.

Adel made art for many years, alongside his other work and study. He describes having to make a choice in order to provide for his family: “I didn’t give up everything, but I did give up art or a life in art for financial security.” However, he is mindful that he did this specifically so that his children would not have to be in the same position, and would be able to choose a career in the arts if they wanted.

Maxine and Adel met through their shared Baháʼí faith, and wrote one another love letters for a long time before they met and wed. After they married, they lived in West Auckland and raised their family there before making the decision to return to a place that might provide a new kind of home - to Te Tairāwhiti, where Maxine has whakapapa connections.

When Adel and his brother escaped Iran and religious persecution, their mother made the journey with them to Pakistan, but had to make the perilous journey back by herself to take care of their ailing father. Adel and his brother eventually made it to New Zealand, with Adel recalling how the flight meant more than just a new home:

“For two years, we were in complete limbo, and I remember seeing the old school Air New Zealand logo on the wing of the plane. I’ll never forget that colour, you know, that teal colour, and that logo,” Adel says. “I kind of associated that Air New Zealand logo to freedom.”

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Julie Zhu and Saraid de Silva

Julie Zhu and Saraid de Silva Photo: UHZ Ltd

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 |

NZ On Air

NZ On Air Photo: NZOA